The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) fully supports and stands behind the findings and recommendations of Te Kahu Aroha – the Oranga Tamariki Ministerial Advisory Board report. We are saddened and hurt by the continued systemic failings of the Government and previous leadership of Oranga Tamariki that has been harmful to tamariki and whānau. We are pleased to hear the Government has accepted the recommendations and we now call on them to ensure plentiful resourcing and funding to enable the full implementation of the aspirational changes.
The voice and value of social work has been systematically stripped out of Oranga Tamariki by both the Government and leadership and we fully embrace the finding that social work must return to the core of Oranga Tamariki.
Sharyn Roberts, ANZASW President, says, “We welcome the Board’s recognition of the value and importance of social work. Oranga Tamariki must rebuild itself as a social work-oriented organisation, with a strong social work ethos at all levels of the organisation. ANZASW acknowledges the incredibly challenging work that social workers undertake daily, particularly within Oranga Tamariki”.
“We have known for a long time that Oranga Tamariki social workers are overworked, practicing with limited supports, and operating within a risk-orientated environment. The voice of social work has been marginalised and diminished within Oranga Tamariki. This report highlights the systemic and organisational failings, not the poor practice of individual social workers” says Braden Clark, Kaiwhakahaere Chief Executive of ANZASW.
He continues, “The report recognises the uniquely challenging and incredibly difficult work that social workers undertake, that is incomparable to any other profession.” ANZASW calls on greater support for social workers, including, a focus on safe workloads, greater induction, training, and professional supervision.
The challenge is now for Oranga Tamariki to reorient itself to bringing social work back to the core of its work, whilst also enabling iwi and community social service providers. We know that iwi and community organisations are already stretched through poor funding arrangements. Research by Social Service Providers Aotearoa, in 2019, found a $630m shortfall in social service sector funding.
The proposed changes will require more work by iwi and community organisations. The Government must fund these organisations fairly, including through addressing the already proven funding shortfall. Iwi and community social workers are paid an average of 34% less than their statutory counterparts and these pay equity and fair funding issues must urgently be addressed as part of the next phase of work for Oranga Tamariki.
“Systemic change is urgently needed throughout Aotearoa in order to reprioritise iwi and communities caring for and protecting tamariki and their whānau. We call on the Government to fully invest in the excellent work that iwi and community organisations are undertaking” says Mr Clark.
The proposed reforms are significant and ambitious but are the right thing to do in order to support the wellbeing of tamariki and whānau. The report highlights these changes will take a generation to show full effect. There must now be immediate and sustained significant investment by the Government into Māori, the community, and Oranga Tamariki. Without the much-needed investment, this will yet be another report into our nation’s child protection system doomed to fail.
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.