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Government to 'transform' Oranga Tamariki, uplifts to be last resort

Significant changes are expected to be made to the Oranga Tamariki child care and protection system after the government accepted the recommendations of the Ministerial Advisory Board.

Minister for Children Kelvin Davis says there will be a major shift in decision-making and resources at a local level, empowering communities to work together with Oranga Tamariki in the prevention of harm against children.

He says without notice orders (uplifts) will only be used after proper engagement with whānau and a new operating model will be created to train and better support social workers.

“This report will end uplifts as we have known them. While there will always be a need for some children to be taken into care, this should only happen after all avenues with community and whanau have been exhausted,” Davis says.

The agency’s failures have been well documented, including traumatic uplifts, poor relationships with Māori and social workers under pressure.

“Community-led prevention is the biggest thing for me from this report – our communities have the answers and Oranga Tamariki needs to work with them to stop children entering into care.”

The Ministerial Advisory Board was set up earlier this year after a multitude of reviews and inquiries into the conduct of Oranga Tamariki. Members included Sir Mark Solomon, Shannon Pakura, Dame Naida Glavish and chair Matthew Tukaki. The board was unable to provide assurance that the operating model and practices of Oranga Tamariki are fit for purpose. The government has accepted all its recommendations.

Davis says, “What they provided was a confronting yet powerful report and I am pleased to say the government has accepted all their recommendations. From the outset of my time as mnister I have been committed to fixing the child protection system and these changes will go a long way towards doing that.”

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The need for change has also been known since as far back as 1988 with the publication of Te Puao Te Ata Tu alongside more recent inquiries and reviews including the Waitangi Tribunal report He Pāharakeke.

“There will always be a role for the state in the protection of our most vulnerable children but the approach taken to date has placed the state at the centre,” Davis says.

“This has undermined the ability of communities to ensure the wellbeing of children and their whānau. Our people often know what’s best and need to be empowered to lead these decisions locally.”

To ensure these changes are implemented an action plan aligned to the themes of the recommendations has been developed, with an independent governance board established to ensure progress remains on track.

“It is important to acknowledge the demanding and difficult work undertaken by Oranga Tamariki staff, much of which went unseen by the public and has been done in a system that provided inadequate support,” Davis says.

“The new direction for Oranga Tamariki has been set. A plan has been put in place for change and alongside the members of my ministerial advisory board and the leadership of Oranga Tamariki we are going to change the system.”