Government strengthens oversight for children in state care

Social Development and Employment

The Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System Bill and the Children and Young People’s Commission Bill have passed their Third Reading in Parliament.

“We want Aotearoa New Zealand to be the best place in the world to be a child, which is why we’ve taken the steps neccessary to strengthen monitoring, complaints processes and advocacy for our children and young people,” Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni said.

“These Bills are an important stepping stone towards ensuring we can avoid the errors of the past. I’m confident that these Bills will also make a positive difference for our children and young people,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

“This journey started back in 2017, and has underpinned our Government’s focus and commitment to overhauling Oranga Tamariki and the system that holds it to account. The 2018 Beatie report highlighted how inadequate our system of oversight really was, which is why we acted quickly to ensure oversight was strengthened.

“Throughout the process and in the lead-up to where we have landed today, engagement has been robust, and many peoples feedback and submissions have gone on to inform the changes in these Bills. These legislative changes were informed by the insights of our children and young people.

“We’re retaining a Chief Children’s Commissioner, we’ve strengthened the independence of the monitor, and we’ve reduced the review period to three years instead of five.

“The review period will ensure we can take into account recommendations from the Abuse in State Care Royal Commission of Inquiry and make any changes needed, whilst also ensuring we’re acting as quickly as possible to strengthen the oversight of the system.”

The legislation will strengthen the system by establishing an Independent Monitor of Oranga Tamariki as a statutory officer that is legally independent. It will require an accessible and timely complaints and investigation process for children and young people through the Ombudsman and bolstering the diversity and powers of advocacy through the Children and Young People’s Commission. And all of this is underpinned by strong te tiriti obligations and a commitment to uphold the wellbeing and voices of our children and young people.

“Today completes a process we started four years ago. It’s been a strongly contested and argued debate, but what we now have is a new landscape that will make a positive difference for our children and young people. It provides us with key structures and systems that will help ensure we can avoid the errors of the past, furthering our efforts to make Aotearoa New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

The legislation passed today:

  • strengthens the Independent Children’s Monitor’s duties and powers to assess compliance with the Oranga Tamariki Act and the quality of Oranga Tamariki System service delivery, and assess outcomes for children and young people, families and whānau in the Oranga Tamariki System
  • strengthens independent complaints oversight and investigations related to the Oranga Tamariki System through the Ombudsman
  • strengthens system level advocacy for all New Zealand children and young people by establishing the Children and Young People’s Commission to replace the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, and enhancing its functions and activities
  • requires the oversight bodies to demonstrate a practical commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.