The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) welcomes the announcement by the Ombudsman to conduct a wide-ranging inquiry into Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children’s practices and processes when removing new born children under court orders.
ANZASW recognises that the Ministry’s risk-averse care and protection system needs to be examined closely so that policies on uplifts can be improved.
We see the inquiry as an opportunity to identify and deliver best practices, reassuring the public that the right policies will be adopted for their safety, while at the same time safeguarding the rights of family / whānau. This does not of course discount the fact that there will continue to be circumstances where removal is the only responsible option when the life or well-being of a child / tamariki is severely threatened.
The Association has every expectation that the upcoming investigation will listen to the voice of social workers and independent experts, including persons with lived experience and affected families / whānau and communities.
We note that this investigation follows the announcement of the internal Oranga Tamariki investigation to be led by the Chief Social Worker into recent events in Hawke’s Bay, a thematic review on treatment of Māori new-borns by the Children’s Commissioner and an inquiry into uplifts by the Iwi leaders’ group.
The Association welcomes all the above but wishes to emphasise the importance and value of listening to the voice of social workers at all levels in Oranga Tamariki, especially those with many years of experience providing frontline services.
We hope that the various investigations will result in a consensus agreement made in good faith on matters such as how to improve relations between statutory agencies and Iwi and what constitutes best practice.
We encourage all parties
to focus on the primary goal of maximising positive outcomes
for our children / tamariki going forward.