Oversight of the care of our children strengthened

  • Hon Carmel Sepuloni
Social Development

The Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni today announced changes to the Government oversight of the children’s system, designed in particular to support the experience of children in the care of Oranga Tamariki.

“Change is needed to ensure the wellbeing and interests of children are at the centre of how the state delivers care and support. It is crucial that oversight arrangements recognise and respond to Māori, given their significant representation within care,” Carmel Sepuloni said. 

The proposed changes are key to strengthening and clarifying independent monitoring, systemic advocacy for all New Zealand’s children, complaints oversight and investigation functions, which together make up the oversight system for children. 

“Investment and focus on strong independent oversight of services to children and young people under the Oranga Tamariki Act is critical to ensuring this system is effective.

Work started in 2015 to improve poor experiences and outcomes for children and young people in state care and to establish National Care Standards. These standards come into effect on July 1st.   

The Ministry of Social Development commenced work in August 2017 with support from the State Services Commission to undertake a review of the oversight of the children's system and last year the Government consulted on how the system could be strengthened.  

“Currently independent oversight is undertaken by, among others, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC), the Human Rights Commission, the Health and Disability Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner, the Independent Police Conduct Authority, and the Ombudsman. However, only the OCC has specific oversight responsibilities for children and young people. VOYCE-Whakarongo Mai also has an advocacy role in respect of children in care.

“The Office for the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) has done an exemplary job in its current capacity particularly in its systemic advocacy for all New Zealand’s children. I’m keen to see us continue to capitalise on this strength. The Office will remain an independent Crown entity. 

“Under the new arrangements, The Ombudsman has been tasked with providing an enhanced complaints oversight and investigations function relating to the Oranga Tamariki system given their expertise in this area.

“Given the scale and scope of Oranga Tamariki’s new Standards, the monitoring function that will be required will be a steep shift in size and complexity and will be a significant change for the sector. 

“The Ministry of Social Development will be tasked with establishing and operating the new regulatory monitor function with the intention to transfer to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner once it is running effectively. 

“The Ministry of Social Development will work with the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, and engage with Māori and other key stakeholders to build a new monitoring framework for monitoring services to children under the Oranga Tamariki Act 

“The new monitoring framework will provide assurance that the new National Care Standards will work for children and young people in care and their carers. 

“Being transparent about how we are delivering for our children and in particular our most vulnerable, will be critical to the success of the Oranga Tamariki reforms. 

 “The proposed changes represent a commitment to child wellbeing and will ensure we have increased focus in the areas of monitoring, complaints oversight and investigations and systemic advocacy for children in care and all children around New Zealand.” Carmel Sepuloni said.