Major reforms continue for care and protection

  • Anne Tolley
Social Development

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says that legislation is to be introduced in Parliament by the end of the year which will better support children and young people in care or at risk of going into care, while increasing support for families and caregivers.

“The new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, will be totally child-centred and everything it does must be completely focused on safety and the very best long-term outcomes for children and young people already in the care system, or who are at risk of needing care,” says Mrs Tolley.

“The current system is not meeting the needs of vulnerable children, and this new legislation will underpin two important aspects of the new operating model - early intensive intervention and improved care support services, with the views of children an integral part of the process.

“The Youth Advisory Panel, made up of young people with experience of state care, told me they want the state to stop experimenting with their lives.

“They want a child’s first care placement to be the best, and to ensure it delivers a loving, long-term and stable home. The current system sees kids as young as seven having already had eight placements, and the resulting trauma can affect these young people for the rest of their lives. Wherever possible, we need to get it right first time for these kids.”

Legislation will be introduced which proposes new or amended principles to the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 (CYPF Act), and includes:

  • Early intervention to improve the safety and wellbeing of children and young people and address any risk of future harm, to include the voice of the young person in the process and where possible assist parents or guardians to provide a safe, stable home.
  • Where a child is removed and cannot be returned to immediate family, they must be placed with a safe, stable and loving family at the earliest opportunity, and the young person’s views and needs must be included in the planning process. Stability and continuity is important in the placement decisions and where practicable the young people should be placed with siblings, and consideration given to their links to the community.
  • Young people should be placed where they can develop a sense of belonging and attachment, while maintaining personal and cultural identity.
  • A set of National Care Standards which set out the rights and needs of children in care, the standard of care they can expect, and standards for caregiver training, monitoring and support.
  • Financial support for caregivers that is responsive to the changing needs of children.

Significant legislative changes are currently going through Parliament which will raise the age of state care and protection to a young person’s 18th birthday, ensure that children’s voices are heard in decisions which affect them, and which will establish an independent youth advocacy service.

“The care and protection system is being rebuilt from the ground up, with a detailed multi-year plan to ensure we get this right for our young people,” says Mrs Tolley.

“The new operating model, and the new Ministry, is scheduled to get under way in April 2017 and will no longer simply address short-term crisis management. It will have a single point of accountability and will address the long-term needs of children and young people in the care system, focusing on prevention, intensive intervention, care support services, transition support and a youth justice service aimed at preventing offending and reoffending.

“Budget 2016 invested $347 million to fund the current transformation process and to address cost pressures, and more changes will be announced over the next few months.”

Relevant Cabinet papers are available at http://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/work-programmes/investing-in-children/new-childrens-agency-established.html.