Second care reform Bill passes second reading

  • Anne Tolley

The second stage of major reform to New Zealand’s care and protection system took a step forward in Parliament today, says Minister for Children Anne Tolley.

“This Bill is the second significant step in our major reform programme towards a more child-centred care system which will improve the outcomes for vulnerable children and young people,” says Mrs Tolley.

“The Bill will support the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki through a range of reforms. It represents a significant shift from crisis response to prevention, early intervention and support to independence.

“I’ve travelled the country meeting a large number of iwi, Maori organisations and community groups to discuss this Bill.

“Everyone agrees the child’s safety must come first – but this doesn’t need to be at the exclusion of wider whānau who are able to provide a safe, secure and loving home.

“I’ve always said that wherever possible a child should live with their family, whānau, or hapū provided it’s in their best interests, safety and wellbeing. In the Bill’s initial draft this was not clear enough so I welcome the Committee’s agreement to clarify the wording.

“The changes align with the Bill’s original intention that children who are removed from their usual caregiver are returned home wherever possible, and where they can’t be returned home and consistent with their best interests, there’s a preference for placement in their wider family, whanau, or hapū.

“There is also an increase in prominence in the Bill to the concepts of mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga.

“I’d like to thank the Select Committee for its consideration of the Bill. It was encouraging to see the quality of the 442 submissions received.”

The Select Committee has proposed renaming the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 to the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, with an accompanying title of the Children’s and Young People’s Well-being Act 1989.

It also recommended changes to youth justice provisions, including allowing 17 year-olds and other young people transferred to adult courts to be transferred back to the Youth Court when charges are reduced. 

The legislation proposes:

  • changing the purposes and principles of the Act to place children/young people at the centre of decision-making and consider them within the context of their family, whānau, hapū and iwi, and broader communities.
  • allowing young people in care to remain or return to living with a caregiver until the age of 21, with transition support and advice available up to age 25.
  • strengthening information sharing provisions to help keep vulnerable children and young people safe from harm or make arrangements for their well-being.
  • extending the youth justice system to include most 17 year olds (excluding those charged with specified serious offences).
  • enhancing the complaints processes.

Budget 2017 invests an extra $434.1 million to support the Ministry’s transformation to the new operating model and to meet cost pressures.