Press Statement:

16 February 2024 

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai welcomes the Auditor General’s report: “Meeting the mental health needs of young New Zealanders”.

Tracie Shipton, CEO of VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai, says, “We are heartened to see that the Office of the Auditor General has directed attention to our care experienced community in their report, highlighting the difficulties they often encounter and promoting the need for a priority response for young people in care.”

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai’s work with care experienced young people has long highlighted the need for better and easier access to mental health support for young people in care; and the report highlights the stark reality that care experienced young people are four times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their peers, and twice more likely to report symptoms of depression.

Ihorangi Reweti Peters, a young person and advocate with lived experience of the care system, says, “It’s shocking that so many young people in care are struggling on a daily basis with suicidal ideation and mental illness, and yet the state is not intervening and providing the support we need.”

“It is disappointing and frustrating to read about the lack of communication and information sharing between services who are all meant to support young people. If we don’t make real changes to interagency communication, we risk reading about the lack of it in a coroner’s report,” says Shipton.

“Free access to mental health support should be a given, especially for any young person with a care experience” adds Reweti Peters.

Care experienced young people call for counselling services to be free and mandatory for all tamariki and rangatahi entering state care, which is, in itself, a traumatic experience. VOYCE believes mental health support should be proactively offered as a matter of course to all young people in care, rather than waiting to respond when things reach a crisis point.

The young people in this report are Aotearoa’s children with real lives and real futures. We urge government departments to prioritise the recommendations made and we stand ready to support agencies with the appropriate inclusion of care experienced youth voices.

VOYCE (Voice Of the Young and Care Experienced) – Whakarongo Mai is a national independent advocacy organisation for tamariki and rangatahi in care.