National | Children's Commissioner

Children's Commissioner repeats call for 'prison-like' centre closures

Children's Commissioner Frances Eivers is pleased with the quick response by Oranga Tamariki to allegations of child sex abuse within the Ministry of Children.

Concerns were raised following a routine visit by Commissioner's Office staff. Eivers, a former district court judge says she made contact with Oranga Tamariki, which immediately launched an inquiry.

"We do have a process with Oranga Tamariki. These are quite serious concerns. So I would have expected that that would have been their response," she told

Despite the quick response, Eivers is again calling for the closure of Oranga Tamariki-run care and protection and youth justice residences, which she says are old and out of date.

"These residences are probably 30, 40 or 50 years old. They're institutions, and they can take up to sometimes 20-30 young people. They're like prisons.

"Often, our mokopuna are sent away from their whānau either to a different part of the country or a different island - we're talking about 12, 14, 15 and 16-year-olds."

'Look like prisons'

"They're meant to be last resort and short term. And they're not. They look like a prison."

Oranga Tamariki chief executive Chappie Te Kani, called the police to investigate the claims involving two individuals working with rangatahi at the youth justice and care and protection facilities.

"Children in our care must be cared for. Children in our facilities must be safe," Te Kani said on Wednesday.

"There is no room in this organisation for any young person to be put at risk by the behaviour of staff."

Eivers hopes the allegations hasten the process of adopting new models of care for vulnerable children.

"The international convention on the Rights of Children does not support this model of care for children and these sorts of situations. Oranga Tamariki is aware of that. In my discussions they are supportive of a community-based model. It's just getting that done.

"So I'm hoping that this really just highlights why we need our mokopuna in a place where the care is therapeutic, where it's based on individuals, smaller numbers and hopefully avoid any harm coming to them and keep them safe."

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