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New Report Says Oranga Tamariki Oversight Bill Risks A ‘Vicious Cycle’ Of Increasing Harm To Children And Young People

A major new report on the Government’s proposed changes to the oversight of the Oranga Tamariki System and to the role and structure of the office of the Children’s Commissioner has been released today.

Called Improving a System When Young Lives are at Stake, the report has been authored by two public policy experts, David King, a senior public servant for 20 years, and Jonathan Boston, Emeritus Professor of Public Policy at Victoria University of Wellington.

‘The report’s key conclusion is that establishing the “Independent” Monitor of Oranga Tamariki as a government department (hosted by ERO) means it is not independent enough from the bureaucracy or politicians to ensure children and young people are protected from harm.

‘Locating the Monitor so close to the centre of power runs the risk of a vicious cycle of increasing levels of abuse and the potential for abuse to be swept under the carpet,’ says David King

The Government proposal includes locating the investigation of complaints with the Ombudsman.

‘Our analysis establishes that the complaints function should sit with the Children and Young People’s Commission, along with the monitoring and advocacy roles.

‘This will create a highly desirable single point of call for children and young people where no child can fall between the gaps.

‘The Commission will be a truly independent body which can enjoy the confidence of the public, particularly children and young people in State care and Māori whose tamariki are disproportionately represented in care.

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‘The government’s own papers show that public confidence is necessary for monitoring to be performed effectively.

‘The significant level of opposition to the Bill, especially from organisations working most directly with children and young people, along with all other parties in Parliament, clearly demonstrates the Monitor does not enjoy the necessary level of trust,’ says Professor Jonathan Boston

The report’s authors call on the Government to pause the Bill currently before Parliament.

‘The Government has said it cannot afford to wait for the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and Faith-based Institutions, despite taking since 2018 to get to this point.

‘But the Royal Commission is now so close to finishing and the Government runs the risk of creating the sort of conditions that enabled what went on in the past to happen again – we can afford to wait, we must first do no harm.’ says David King.

‘By taking a pause, our analysis can be tested thoroughly and the proper consultation the Government has failed to undertake can take place, particularly with Māori, children and young people in State care, the care-experienced and those whose abuse the system has failed to identify,’ says Professor Boston.

‘The Monitor has been functioning within the Ministry of Social Development since 2019, essentially as a part of central government, in a similar way to that proposed for the Independent Monitor.

‘A pause will enable an independent review to be undertaken assessing the Monitor’s performance to date,’ says David King.

‘Aotearoa New Zealand has the opportunity to create an outstanding oversight system for Oranga Tamariki, one that supports the development of Oranga Tamariki and ensures the safety and wellbeing of the most vulnerable among our children and young people.

‘We must not squander this opportunity, let alone create additional risk,’ the authors say.

Access ‘Improving a System When Young Lives are at Stake’

The report can be located at: Improving A System When Young Lives Are At Stake

Author Biographies

David King is an independent public policy analyst, specialising in child and youth wellbeing, mental health, public administration and constitutional policy. He was a senior public servant for 20 years working across a wide range of public policy domains, including care and protection and constitutional policy. He is a survivor of child abuse and of its adverse impacts on wellbeing.

Jonathan Boston ONZM is Emeritus Professor of Public Policy at Victoria University of Wellington. He has a number of research interests including child poverty, climate change and governance (including governance for the future) and has published widely on these and other public policy matters.

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