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How Not To Engage With Tamariki And Rangatahi

NZCCSS (the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services) says that the Community and Social Services Select Committee has effectively silenced the voices of Tamariki and Rangatahi on significant changes that will impact them the most.

In January, NZCCSS joined many across the sector to oppose the proposed ‘Oversight of Oranga Tamariki and Children and Young Person’s Commissioner Bill’. Nearly the entire children’s sector came out in opposition of the Bill. The Committee presented its recommendations to Parliament yesterday.

“Setting aside our many issues with these Bills, we had to speak up on the process for engagement with Tamariki and Rangatahi. The report suggests this process was not only good, but holds it up as something to replicate. That is simply untrue - everything about the process made participation by Tamariki and Rangatahi both challenging and highly unlikely,” says NZCCSS Executive Office Nikki Hurst.

The Bill was released for comment the week before Christmas. Submissions ended the third week of January. NZCCSS joined many others asking for the Bill to be deferred, or even paused to allow better engagement with children and young people.

Hurst says that there was no additional support, funding, roadshows, or special circumstances arranged to support children and young people to engage or gather their opinions.

“The one concession that appears to have been made is to arrange oral submission time slots to be after school hours. This is particularly strange when – as widely criticised – the consultation occurred in the school holidays.”

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The resulting Bills (now split into two) will see the frequently criticised practice of one Government Department overseeing another. ERO will have responsibility for monitoring the Oranga Tamariki system, while the already overworked and under resourced, Ombudsman becomes responsible for monitoring and resolving complaints under the Oranga Tamariki Act.

The second Bill serves to restrict the highly effective Office of the Children’s Commission to serve as an advocate only. There will be no monitoring or oversight role, access to the Prime

Minister is reduced and a panel replaces a person – albeit with one able to the “face” of the panel. Ironically, the new Commission will be advocating for is the rights of Children – immediately after this Bill removes the ability of the Commission to do anything about them.

“This committee does great work. But in this instance, they have ignored the voice of the sector, and intentionally silenced those it will most impact – children and young people. It's no wonder we do not want to lower the voting age, young people might just get a say.”

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