SUCCESSFUL SYSTEMIC ADVOCACY COMES IN SMALL STEPS.

Back in November 2018, VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai presented at Select Committee in support of the (formerly named) KiwiSaver (Foster Parents Opting in for Children in their Care) Amendment Bill. Jacob Batten, Jennifer Thonrithi and Tracie Shipton presented in Wellington, while Merenia Hudson presented via teleconference.

Tracie Shipton, Jacob Batten and Jennifer Thonrithi at Select Committee

The VOYCE team were emphatic in their support for the Bill. The Bill was designed to enable foster parents (or kin carers) to open a Kiwisaver account for a foster child in their care. It is important to note that this access is open to all parents in New Zealand, but not to foster parents.

Jacob Batten, commenting on his participation in the Select Committee, said, “the experience and opportunity to make a positive impact on young people in foster care like myself makes me proud to be part of the movement in changing the way we think about young people in care and the rights they have.”

Hamish Walker originally introduced this Bill saying, “Foster children are among some of the most vulnerable children in New Zealand and giving them the ability to have a KiwiSaver account gives them an identity and the ability to start saving.” Our sincere thanks go out to Hamish for all his efforts championing this cause and pushing to have this Bill passed in some form.

Now named the KiwiSaver (Oranga Tamariki Guardians) Amendment Bill, the changed Bill has several constraints on the children it was initially aimed at helping. There are close to 6000 children in care and the Bill that yesterday passed into law will deprive some 5500 children in care from having KiwiSaver accounts opened by foster parents on their behalf.

While it is not the win we were hoping for, it has raised the awareness for the need of foster parents to be able to equip young people in a way that a parent may choose to. VOYCE will continue to strive for a New Zealand where being care experienced is not a disadvantage to a young person’s rights.