State care reform Bill passes third reading

  • Anne Tolley
Social Development

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says the first set of major reforms in the overhaul of care and protection have passed a third reading in Parliament.

“These reforms are crucial if we are to deliver a truly child-centred care system,” says Mrs Tolley.

“For the first time children and young people will, by law, have a say in the decisions that affect their lives. Their voices will also play an important role as the development of the new operating model for the care system continues as part of the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, which will begin operating in April 2017.

The reforms in the Children, Young Persons and Their Families (Advocacy, Workforce and Age Settings) Amendment Bill:

  • Extend the age of state care and protection to a young person’s 18th birthday
  • Ensure the views of children and young people are taken into account as part of decision making at an individual level and in the development of services and policy
  • Support the establishment of an independent youth advocacy service, and
  • Enable the broader range of professionals with specialist skills who will widen the expertise within the new model to perform some functions under the Act. Social workers would still be the main professionals responsible for carrying out these functions.

The independent advocacy service will help connect children and young people in care to build a positive care identity, advocate for them and influence the development of services to ensure their individual and collective rights are upheld.  By its April 2017 launch, the service will operate through a provisional national centre in Auckland with a network of local partners and communities, and with regional hubs to be established across the country. 

“These bold changes are only the beginning of a multi-year transformation programme which will give vulnerable children and young people the stable, loving homes they need and the happy and successful lives they deserve,” says Mrs Tolley.

“Further radical reforms have already been announced which include enabling 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, as well as the establishment of an information sharing framework to keep vulnerable children and young people safe from harm.”

Notes to editors:

As part of the wider package of state care reforms, a new operating model, under the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki is being developed, to begin in April 2017, and unlike CYF it will not simply focus on crisis management, but will ensure better long-term life outcomes for children and young people in care. This 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 Maori young people in the system. Currently, 6 out of ten kids in care are Maori.
  • 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.

This will support the five core services of the new model – 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.