New measures to improve the safety of children in care

Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children has created a new unit and reporting system to reduce the harm experienced by children in care, Minister for Children Tracey Martin announced today.

“Children and young people who come into the care of Oranga Tamariki need to feel and be as safe as possible,” Minister Martin says. “These steps are about creating that environment and being open about how well the Ministry is doing.”

The Safety of Children in Care Unit within Oranga Tamariki was established in March to bring a focus to this area and work on establishing a new series of measures to report on harm.

This means that for the first time there will be a single place with an up-to-date view of all findings of harm for children in care.

”This allows Oranga Tamariki to see the full picture of where harm is occurring, to identify higher risk areas which need to be investigated and most importantly to understand the risk factors and make changes to avoid such harm in the future.”

Minister Martin said that the Oranga Tamariki chief executive had formed the unit to improve the Ministry’s performance and to work with experts to create an effective reporting system, which is now in place.

Oranga Tamariki will report first for the six months to 31 December 2018, then on a quarterly basis:

  • the number and percentage of children in care with findings of harm during the previous three months.
  • a breakdown of these numbers by placement type, and the type of person who caused the harm eg, caregiver, non-related adult, other child
  • actions taken to secure the immediate safety of children and the plans put in place to address the impact of the harm experienced.
  • actions taken against the person who caused the harm.

Minister Martin says that this work is more than just reporting on the numbers.

“Oranga Tamariki will provide more transparency about if and when children in care experience harm. In turn this should generate more confidence in our care system and that the Ministry has taken steps to ensure both the immediate and longer term safety of children.”

Having experienced social workers review findings on an ongoing basis and report to front line staff will reinforce best practice and make sure the Ministry takes consistent actions to ensure children’s safety.

“This new approach is different from anything we’ve seen before. The Ministry is taking a responsible, methodical approach and a very broad view of harm - I welcome that.

“It’s essential that we do everything we can to protect the children and young people in our care. A key part of that is understanding the true levels of harm and how and where it occurs.”

 ENDS

 Contact: Richard Ninness 021 892 536

 Background

The new measures emerged from research released by Oranga Tamariki in November 2017, which took a broad and deep view of harm, including everything from emotional distress to serious harm.

The report involved manually reviewing the case files of 698 tamariki in care during the 2015/2016 financial year in order to estimate the overall level of harm experienced in care.

This analysis looked widely, not just at harm experienced in the home, but also schools, communities and when they were visiting family and friends.

It found 85 children and young people experienced an incident of harm ranging from emotional distress through to more serious trauma.

An Expert Measurement Group comprising external experts and Oranga Tamariki staff recommended that an effective measure was needed to report on harm for all types of people causing the harm.