Minister welcomes VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai

  • Anne Tolley

Minister for Children Anne Tolley has welcomed New Zealand’s first independent connection and advocacy service for children and young people in care, which will be called VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai.

The service, which was a recommendation of the expert panel which advised the Minister on the overhaul of care and protection, will begin operating as a new NGO in April 2017. It will help children and young people across the country who are in care to connect with each other, and will ensure that the views of young people are included in the development of policies and services in the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki.

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai has been developed in partnership between young people with experience of being in care, the government, the philanthropic sector and NGOs. Legislation was passed in Parliament at the end of last year to enable its establishment.

Initial government funding of $1.2 million has helped set-up the new service, with a further $6.9 million to be contributed by the government through to June 2019, to help build its capability.

“I am delighted that, for the first time, young people in care in New Zealand are to have an independent advocacy service to represent them,” says Mrs Tolley.

“The voices and needs of young people need to be at the very centre of all decision-making in the new model for care and protection, and this service will play a vital role.

“In addition, a Youth Advisory Panel made up of young people in care or with experience of being in care, will continue to advise me on all aspects of the overhaul and the implementation of a completely new care system.

“There are no quick fixes. The radical overhaul of care and protection is going to take a huge amount of work over a number of years. But it needs to take place and we are determined to make this succeed for our vulnerable young people.” 

Notes to editors:

A new operating model for New Zealand’s care system under the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki is being developed, to begin in April 2017 and unlike Child, Youth and Family it will not simply focus on crisis management, but will ensure better long-term life outcomes for children and young people in care. The new model will have five core services - prevention, intensive intervention, care support, transition support and a youth justice system aimed at preventing offending and reoffending.

Budget 2016 invested $347 million to support the transformation to the new operating model and for cost pressures.

The overhaul includes:

  • A new child-centred operating model with a greater focus on harm and trauma prevention and early intervention. It will provide a single point of accountability for the long-term wellbeing of vulnerable children, with the voice of the child represented in planning and strategy. A social investment approach using actuarial valuations and evidence of what works will identify the best way of targeting early interventions, to ensure that vulnerable children and families receive the care and support they need, when they need it.
  • Direct purchasing of vital services such as health, education and counselling support to allow funding to follow the child, so that these young people can gain immediate access to assistance.  
  • A stronger focus on reducing the over-representation of Māori young people in the system. Currently, six out of ten children in care are Māori.
  • Intensive targeted support for caregivers, including some increased financial assistance and better access to support services. For the first time, National Care Standards will be introduced so that there is a clear expectation for the standard and quality of care in placement homes. A new trauma-informed Professional Practice Framework will also be introduced for staff.

Legislation has also been introduced to:

  • Allow young people to remain in care or return to care up until the age of 21, with transition support and advice available up to 25
  • Enable the establishment of an information sharing framework to keep vulnerable children and young people safe from harm, and
  • Extend the youth justice system to include lower-risk 17 year olds