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No surprises in threat to sue Oranga Tamariki

No surprises in threat to sue Oranga Tamariki

A man’s threat to sue Government children’s agency Oranga Tamariki over false claims by department staff comes as no surprise to new action group Whanau First.

Whanau First co-ordinator Lou Hutchinson said: “Whatever it’s called – Child Youth Family, Ministry of Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki - it’s one leopard that hasn’t changed its spots. If they continue without any accountability it never will change its spots.”

“The consequences worry us most, because there are far too many people who are very angry because of what they say are the false claims and the complete stone wall they come up against when trying to state their case,” she said. “They are not being heard.”

“Worst of all is that this history is littered with circumstances where people have been denied access to what this Ministry is saying about them. If they do get the information it is often after a long and even costly struggle against orchestrated ministry staff intent only on obstruction, and trying to protect a level of power which thankfully is starting to crumble.”

Ms Hutchinson said the processes for dealing with complaints against staff are a sham, and have no weight.

The process comprises an online complaints service, and when upheld complaints are not addressed a complainant may apply for a Chief Executive Panel review, which Ms Hutchinson said is paraded as an independent forum. “It is not,” she said.

“When we see that complaints are investigated by close working friends of the staff who have screwed-up, and when we see that nothing is done to address mistakes or omissions or failures by the staff, that is a lack of intent to make-good,” she said. “It’s no surprise no one trusts the staff.”

“But then we see panel hearings where the complainant is not even allowed to see or hear what the ministry has to say about them and where the Chief Executive passes reports on those hearings to the affected staff for their recommendations, all without any further input from the person who has applied for the review,” she said. “That doesn’t sound very independent at all.”

“We are aware of an example where a complainant, who was not an affected parent but was instead another family member trying to help, had to apply under the Official Information Act, after the report was completed, for details of what the Ministry had said about them in front of the panel.”

She said that when the Ministry of Vulnerable Children was put in place by the National government in 2017, there was little or no allowance for a complaints service.

“There was no budget for the panel process, so that stopped altogether until they found some money under the mattress,” she said.


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