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Keep spotlight on state care to make it safer for tamariki


The latest Safety of Children in Care report reveals the scale of the challenge facing social workers as they act to better protect children / tamariki and young people / rangatahi in Oranga Tamariki in the system.

While the statistics cited in the report make for painful reading, the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW), believes that Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children, must continue to affirm its commitment to transparency and to let the facts speak for themselves.

“It’s shocking that, as the report revealed, more than a hundred children / tamariki in state care were harmed in the first months of this year, of which a disproportionately high number were Tamariki Maori,” ANZASW Chief Executive Lucy Sandford-Reed said.

“We commend the Ministry for making this data public and hope that legislatively required engagement with Māori will see a reduction in the number of tamariki Māori in care and reduce risk to those who need to be in alternative care,” she observed.

“As the professional body for social workers we know only too well that members, particularly those at state agencies, strive to do their best for those that use their services, often in complex and stressful situations. Particularly so, when abuse is being committed by parents or caregivers, who made up the bulk of the perpetrators in this report,” she noted.

“Often social workers will be targeted by the media for either taking an action perceived to be unnecessary or for failing to prevent the injury or death of a child, regardless of the outcome and the need for children to be kept safe,” she added.

“But the blame game must end. What’s needed is action by the whole of the community, in a spirit of mutual respect and partnership so that the underlying issues driving such statistics are fully and collectively addressed,” she said.

“In the more than thirty years since the watershed ‘Puao-tu-ata-tu’ was published, it is arguable that its recommendations have yet to be fully implemented, despite good faith initiatives and the hard work of many individuals and organisations. The duties of the Oranga Tamariki Chief Executive introduced 1 July this year in relation to Te Tiriti of Waitangi provides opportunities for significant change in the way children are protected.” Sandford-Reed argued.

“We have an opportunity to finally change all that- and, as a society, we need to grasp it with both hands,” she said.

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