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Oranga Tamariki Signalling Cuts To Services Providing The Front-line

Support services provided to children and families in Aotearoa seem set to reduce as the social services sector awaits confirmation of likely funding cuts from Oranga Tamariki (OT).

The NZ Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) says the impact of proposed changes will see more tamariki, rangatahi and their whānau unable to access support from long-serving trusted services in their communities.

NZCCSS Kaiwhakahaere Matua Nikki Hurst says OT has signalled that 400 providers with contracts ending June 2024 will not find out if these are to be renewed until after the Budget is announced – but not to have their hopes up either way.

“The government has been very clear that frontline services are not part of the resizing of the public service. In New Zealand, social services are almost entirely delivered by government contracted service providers in our communities. Cuts to contracts with these service providers is a cut to the front line.”

Communications with partners suggest these changes may be part of Oranga Tamariki refocusing solely on care, justice and family & sexual violence response – and a strong directive to reduce funding for what is seen as “prevention”.

Ms Hurst says that stories are already emerging of key community services likely to be lost, with no equivalent replacement planned. “Our members are telling us that they have contracts expiring for 24/7 Teen Parent Units, counselling services, foster care provision, wrap-around response services, intensive parenting support, and more. These are all prevention-focussed services that arguably prevent children from entering more intensive care arrangements.”

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“With no clarity around the continuation of funding, providers are beginning to prepare for some tough decisions. Many providers are financially precarious – these are not businesses, these are the not-for-profit organisations that we all turn to for help when we need it.”

“We have had no sense of direction from OT, or clarity around criteria they will use to continue or discontinue a contract. We know they won’t be able to say these services aren’t needed – we continue to hear of record levels of support being sought in communities, particularly regionally where there are less providers.”

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