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“Virtual” Monitoring Of Children Detained In Secure Residences

Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft says the safety and conditions of children and young people in the care of Oranga Tamariki continue to be monitored, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19.

“Our immediate priority is the safety, rights and wellbeing of children and young people currently living in eight secure residences – four youth justice residences and also four care and protection residences for those with complex care needs.

“We are focused on adapting our monitoring of these residences, under our United Nations OPCAT mandate, by using secure online communication tools like video conferencing.

“These residences present particular challenges in this environment given children and young people are in close proximity with each other and with adult staff members who have regular contact with the outside world.

“It is important the rights of children and young people in these residences are not compromised, even in an emergency, and we will be keeping a close eye on the conditions they are experiencing.

“We should remember those children in the care and protection residences have not committed any crime. And the vast majority of those placed in a youth justice residence by Oranga Tamariki, are on remand, with their alleged offending not yet proven.

“We’re working with Oranga Tamariki to engage with children and young people who are currently living in these residences as soon as we can, using technology in whatever flexible ways work best for them.

“We want to find out what forms of virtual monitoring work best from the perspective of children and young people and will learn from their feedback and advice to refine our approach over the coming weeks.

“We are also working to understand the short, medium and long-term impacts of the pandemic on children and young people. In the short term that may look like sharing best information and advice from a range of sources, while preparing to advocate for the needs of children and young people over the medium and long-term.

“COVID-19 has presented challenges to the way we work, but we continue to support and advocate for the best interests of all children and young people while we are working remotely,” says Commissioner Becroft.

If people are concerned about children and young people in any form of care, they can call our Child Rights Line on 0800 224 453 or email us at children@occ.org.nz.

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