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Safeguarding our children
9 April 2019
Safeguarding our children
New Zealand is strengthening the independent oversight of children’s issues and the Oranga Tamariki system.
New Zealand has high aspirations for all of its children and young people. This is demonstrated by the Government’s commitment to put child wellbeing at the heart of what we do, encouraging all children to reach their full potential.
Recent changes to the Oranga Tamariki system reflect a bold overhaul of how New Zealand is responding to the needs of our most vulnerable children, children and young people. These changes are transformational.
There are also new Government priorities for the reduction of child poverty for all children and embedding of a child wellbeing strategy.
New Zealand has existing arrangements for oversight of how the State is delivering for children. It includes both internal and independent oversight. Independent oversight contributes to building transparency, public trust and confidence.
In conjunction with agency and State internal oversight mechanisms, it gives New Zealanders assurance that government agencies are using their powers appropriately, and that children and young people are living better lives.
Independent oversight is particularly important where government has intrusive and coercive powers, such as the power to remove children and young people from their families, or to place young people in secure residences.
Strong oversight provides these children and young people with confidence that their wellbeing and safety is paramount, and they are treated with dignity and respect. It also provides assurance that their feedback will be taken seriously, and actions will be taken as a result.
Independent oversight also has system benefits. For example it provides agency leaders, managers and Ministers with ongoing access to a different and important perspective on agency processes and services, their decision-making and resource use. In this way, independent oversight contributes to a continuous learning culture.
Independent oversight is also critical to ensuring New Zealand is able to demonstrate we are meeting our obligations under the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.
The Ministry of Social Development was tasked with testing a number of options and ideas on how existing arrangements can be improved. An Independent Reviewer, Sandi Beatie QSO, significantly informed this process through her review of existing settings.
Decisions on the future approach for independent oversight have now been agreed by cabinet.
A key outcome is that significant legislative reform will be undertaken to ensure that the duties, powers and responsibilities for oversight functions are clear and fit for the task.
Given the scale and scope of the new NCS framework the new monitoring function that will be required will be a step shift in size and complexity and will be more regulatory in its approach.
Given the size and scale, MSD has been tasked with establishing and operating the new regulatory monitoring function.
MSD will be named as the monitor for the National Care Standards by July this year.
Establishing the new function will require IT development, data systems, privacy impact assessments and information sharing agreements, HR and operational policy development, as well as considerable engagement around the development of a new monitoring framework for the NCS.
MSD will conduct monitoring for a period, to ensure the new function is robust, and Officials will report back to key Ministers in mid-2020 on progress with the establishment of the monitoring function, with the intention, in principle to transfer it to the OCC once it is running effectively.
Cabinet has agreed that the Office of the Ombudsman is well placed to provide a strengthened complaints oversight and investigation function, because the Office has the capability and experience in complaints and investigations oversight.
Given legislative change is required, these arrangements are subject to the Select Committee process.