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Oranga Tamariki Residential Restraint Practices Must Be Urgently Reviewed

ANZASW is appalled and disturbed by the footage of which appear to be assaults on children in Oranga Tamariki’s care. These assaults appear to be unprovoked and are entirely unacceptable. Restraints on children in care should only be used when there is a serious risk of serious injury or death. ANZASW is pleased to hear that Oranga Tamariki and the Police are undertaking a joint investigation under the Child Protection Protocol.

Those in residential care (whether care and protection or youth justice) are some of the most complex children and young people Oranga Tamariki work with. It is imperative that Oranga Tamariki has suitably trained and skilled staff to provide the high levels of safe, reparative care these children and young people desperately require. ANZASW calls on Oranga Tamariki to undertake a review of their staffing, including levels of training, and procedures and policies relating to restraints. There must be a review of every restraint incident by a senior manager (preferably a social work trained manager) to ensure correct processes and policies are followed.

ANZASW is aware that Oranga Tamariki are employing greater numbers of youth workers, who do not hold the same level of qualifications or experience as social workers. ANZASW’s view is that it is appropriate for Oranga Tamariki to employ youth workers within their residences as this work is primarily care work. However, these youth workers must have sufficient induction, ongoing training, support, and supervision to ensure the care they are providing meets the necessary standards.

ANZASW disagrees with the implication from the Newsroom article that social workers should be the primary employees within residences, as this is not the primary role of social workers. Social workers undertake psychosocial assessments, analysis, and interventions. It would be more appropriate for Oranga Tamariki to ensure a certain ratio of social workers are working at each residence during every shift. Social workers would be able to support to de-escalate situations and provide interventions as and when they are required.

Oranga Tamariki must urgently undertake a comprehensive review into residential care to ensure there is sufficient safeguards and appropriate staffing to provide the necessary level of care.

We commend the social worker who has bravely blown the whistle on this behaviour. ANZASW is concerned that Oranga Tamariki does not appear to have sufficient whistleblowing policies as this social worker feared losing their job. ANZASW urgently calls on Oranga Tamariki to establish whistleblowing processes and policies to protect those who raise concerns. This mechanism must sit outside of Oranga Tamariki to protect those whistle-blowers.

ANZASW is happy to support any of its social work members in raising concerns about any practices of concern. To do so, please contact Braden Clark, Kaiwhakahaere Chief Executive, on bradenc@anzasw.nz

ABOUT ANZASW: ANZASW is the professional association for social workers in Aotearoa New Zealand. We have approximately 3,600 social work members and advocate on behalf of the social work profession.

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