Press Statement:

1 February 2024 

Our care system is causing harm – enough is enough! 

Re: Aroturuki Tamariki (Independent Childrens Monitor) Report

Experiences of Care in Aotearoa: Agency Compliance with the National Care Standards and Related Matters Regulations. Reporting Period 1 July 2022 – 30 June 2023. 

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai acknowledges the release of the latest ‘Experiences of Care in Aotearoa’ report from Aroturuki Tamariki, which closely follows the release of two Oranga Tamariki reports – an annual ‘Safety of Children in Care’ report and a ‘Compliance Report against National Care Standards’.  

The findings echoed across these reports underscore a distressing reality: Oranga Tamariki continues to fall woefully short in delivering minimum standards of care for the tamariki and rangatahi it is responsible to provide for and protect. 

“As a country these results should be of concern to all of us, not just the organisations and services that advocate for young people in care… These results are indicative of a system who desperately needs to be held accountable by the community at large.” 

Lisa McLaren, Youth Council member for VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai 

Our 6 Promises campaign, which received political support across the board in the lead up to the 2023 Election, demanded a proactive commitment to meeting the fundamental needs and rights of Care Experienced tamariki and rangatahi.   

Promise 1: You promised to take care of me and make sure I have the things I need. 

Promise 2: You promised to make sure I have safety and stability in my life. 

Promise 3: You promised to help me with my educational goals and dreams. 

Promise 4: You promised to support me with healthcare when I need it. 

Promise 5: You promised to listen and include me when decisions are made about me. 

Promise 6: You promised to help me feel confident in who I am, learn about my whakapapa, culture, and language. 

It is appalling that five years after the National Care Standards came into existence Oranga Tamariki are unable to demonstrate whether they are being met, and can only provide evidence of their own ‘lead indicators’ being met for 45% of tamariki and rangatahi. It is unacceptable that the state continues to compromise the wellbeing and future of our mokopuna by failing to deliver on these promises.  

We acknowledge there has been some improvement in assessing young people’s needs, however, actually meeting these needs is critical. Oranga Tamariki is unable to confirm whether GP and school enrolments are current, whether young people are accessing the necessary health, dental and educational supports, how often they’re attending school, or whether identity and cultural needs are being met.  

“As someone who was denied access to my cultural heritage – whakapapa Māori – as a young person. I wasn’t allowed to know who and where I came from. I have found in recent years this is the same for others and that is not ok.”  

Kainare Hoffman, Youth Council member for VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai 

While the data from Oranga Tamariki indicates that they ‘consider’ views of young people in care plans, many young people don’t feel heard and often aren’t even aware there is a plan. We know that young people are not being visited often enough by their social workers, and caregivers are not always assessed before young people are placed in their care.  

“I am dismayed at the lack of systemic improvement in administering even the most rudimentary functions of the social workers’ role, like visiting young people in care and adhering to the minimum standards that Oranga Tamariki were involved in setting.” 

Tracie Shipton, Chief Executive for VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai  

Of gravest concern, however, is the increase in the number of children harmed while in state care. Incidents of harm have increased across all age groups, and most significantly for young people supported to return to or remain with their family of origin (up 45% since 2019) and for those placed in residences (up 186% since 2019).  

“As for harm and the residential system, I can testify to that… The kaimahi would use force without regard to the young person’s physical, mental, emotional state… when they were showing the slightest hint of aggression towards themselves, peers or staff.”  

Kainare, Youth Council member 

There is no rational justification for Oranga Tamariki allowing young people to remain in or return to unsafe home environments, or their continued housing of rangatahi in residences where they’re unable to be kept safe. If state intervention is not keeping our most vulnerable young people safe from harm, then we must ask ourselves what purpose it actually serves.  

“It is entirely reprehensible that a child is harmed by a member of an agency that is directly responsible for their care.” 

Lisa, Youth Council member 

We acknowledge that Oranga Tamariki is making significant investment in improving the quality of social work practice and that this takes time, but five years on tamariki are still not receiving adequate care. VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai wants to see a greater emphasis on addressing the systemic causes of poor practice, such as staff turnover, high workloads, lack of supervision, and risk aversion.    

“Describing the inadequate support experienced by young people in state care as simply unacceptable and disappointing, fails to fully convey the depth of my sentiments and the reality for young people.” 

Tracie, Chief Executive  

It is imperative that our most vulnerable young people are provided with, at a minimum, the level of care outlined in the National Care Standards. Oranga Tamariki continues to be unable to deliver this. Wanting to change is not the same as change – enough is enough. It is time for a radical shift in the way our country provides care and protection services.  

“At what point do we say that this is the worst type of practice that we can be seeing? It urgently needs a select committee review.”  

Tupua Urlich, National Care Experience Lead for VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai 

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai calls on the Minister for Children and Oranga Tamariki to urgently address these systemic issues, prioritise the well-being of our tamariki and rangatahi, and ensure the state is upholding the 6 Promises it has committed to. 

For further information, please refer to the 6 Promises campaign. 

End of Statement  

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