What is ‘The Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People’s Commission Bill’?

This Bill “aims to improve outcomes for children and young
people in New Zealand by strengthening the independent
monitoring and
complaints oversight of Oranga Tamariki, as
well as advocacy for children and young people’s issues
generally”. 
 

Basically this Bill proposes changes to how Oranga Tamariki is
monitored, how complaints about Oranga Tamariki can be made and responded to, and how advocacy can work to
improve the systems that impact the lives of tamariki and rangatahi in Aotearoa.  

The Bill proposes to do things like: 

  • Place the ‘Independent Children’s Monitor’ alongside the Education Review Office (ERO) within a Government Department. 
  • Shift the responsibility for complaints and investigations regarding Oranga Tamariki from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner to the Ombudsman. 
  • Convert the Office of the Children’s Commissioner into a Board-led Commission (i.e. no Commissioner) with less power to make changes. 

Want to have your say on this Bill but don’t know where to start? We’ve got you!

The Bill with the super long name, ‘The Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People’s Commission Bill’, is open for public submissions to the Select Committee until 26 January 2022.

The Select Committee process and your submissions are the key to changing the Bill.

Why make a Submission?

To have your say, be counted and positively influence changes made to this Bill to give it the best chance of keeping tamariki and rangatahi in care safe.

The VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai community and many others across the care and social services sector have a number of significant concerns about this Bill and the lack of consultation on the proposed changes.

We, along with many other organisations, will be advocating hard to stop this Bill from proceeding in its current form. We want to make sure young people’s voices are heard in this process.

Together, we can try to stop this potentially harmful Bill progressing in its current form.

Why VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai and others oppose this Bill in its current form

The Bill ignores countless reports on what independent and effective monitoring of the Oranga Tamariki system should look like.  

If this Bill progresses in its current form, there is a high risk of continuing the 5 year cycle of a broken care system given another new name. To ensure meaningful change, we need an effective watchdog that has authority to independently monitor and protect our society’s most vulnerable tamariki, rangatahi and their whānau in the Oranga Tamariki system.  

Tamariki are not at the heart of this Bill

We are concerned that:

  • The proposed changes will create an unnecessarily complicated oversight framework focused on the needs of the “Oranga Tamariki system” rather than the rights, interests and wellbeing of tamariki and their whānau.  
  • There has been a lack of consultation in the process of developing this legislation and there is no guarantee within the Bill for ongoing consulation or having regard to the voices of young people.  
  • Not enough time has been given to young people to provide feedback on this Bill, due to the short timeframe and impact of the summer school holidays.  

Recommendation: Consultation with young people is needed before this Bill can be progressed any further. Provision for ongoing consultation with young people must also be included in the Bill. 

No independence of the Independent Children’s Monitor

We are concerned that:

  • By sitting alongside ERO, as proposed, the Independent Children’s Monitor will lack the separation from Government needed to provide effective and independent monitoring of their significant and coercive powers.  
  • The contradiction of having the term ‘independent’ in a government agency’s title demonstrates a lack of integrity, transparency and clarity. 
  • There are legal rules making it almost impossible to criticise the Government if you are within a Government Department. This makes the Monitor’s role to hold Government agencies to account fundamentally flawed, and doesn’t instill public trust and confidence in how the Oranga Tamariki system will be monitored. 

Recommendation: We believe the ICM should sit under the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC). Several previous reports (EAP, Beatie, MSD and Cabinet reports and papers) all recommended the ICM should sit under the OCC.We strongly support this original plan which ensures the monitor sits within an independent child-focused rights-body instead of a compliance-driven systems-focused Government department.  

Token Maori partnership

We are concerned that:

  • The ICM is proposed to have a Māori Advisory Board made up of members with “experience and knowledge of tikanga Māori” – this is token and does not provide adequate application of, or commitment to, Te Tiriti o Waitangi. 
  • The new Children and Young People’s Commission is proposed to be governed by a Board with at least half the members  “having Māori knowledge; and experience in, and knowledge of, tikanga Māori” – this not adequate and should state 50% of the Board “whakapapa Māori”. 

Recommendation: We believe at least 50% of the Commission Board must whakapapa Māori and that the ICM should adopt a governance structure that reflects true partnership with Māori.  

No teeth

We are concerned that:

  • The proposed oversight system lacks the power to enforce accountability, and an independent monitor should be able speak out where poor or harmful practice is identified  
  • The proposed role of the ICM focuses on service compliance rather than rights-based monitoring of a system. 
  • Without true independence, the ICM can’t objectively assess the use of ‘coercive powers’ (forceful powers) by the Oranga Tamariki system to ensure rights are upheld. 
  • No clear feedback loops which would drive ongoing strengthening of Oranga Tamariki and other related (education, health) systems for tamariki and rangatahi. 
  • Limits to the Monitor’s powers of entry to carry out monitoring duties in places housing young people and children in care. This creates loopholes that could easily be abused and prevent unsafe practice or abuse from being identified. 

Recommendation: We believe the Monitor must be truly independent, have unlimited power of entry with clear feedback loops for all key stakeholders. 

MONITORING, COMPLAINTS AND ADVOCACY WORK BETTER TOGETHER

We are concerned that:

  • The emphasis on keeping monitoring, complaints and advocacy functions separate means it siloes relevant information and processes, reducing the effectiveness of each function and delaying outcomes for tamariki and rangatahi. Having these three functions side by side is recommended by the UN’s Human Rights Commission and has been found to increase accountability and effectiveness in other jurisdictions. 
  • UN guidance states NHRI’s “should be able, independently and effectively, to monitor, promote and protect children’s rights” and that “their mandate should include as broad a scope as possible for promoting and protecting human rights”. 

Recommendation: Monitoring, complaints and advocacy functions must work together side-by-side and not in siloes 

Complaints sitting within an adult system unlikely to be child-friendly or accessible

We are concerned that:

  • The proposed complaints system ignores multiple reports that have highlighted the need for simplification, streamlining and improved accessfor tamariki, rangatahi and their whānau (Beatie 2018; Royal Commission Abuse in Care 2021; UNCRC 2002, 2016, 2020) 
  • The Ombudsman is not a child-centred entity – the OCC was established because the needs and rights of children and young people require special attention and protection 

Recommendation: A child-specific agency (such as the Office of the Children’s Commissioner)  must manage complaints. 

A step-by-step guide on how to make a submission on the Oranga Tamariki Oversight Bill

The closing date is soon – Wednesday 26 January 2022. 

Following the steps below to make a submission should take around 5 – 10mins. 

How to make a submission

1. Click THIS LINK to get to the Submissions page for this Bill. 

2. Click the green text box at the bottom of the page that says I am ready to make my submission. You will be asked to answer a couple of different questions, including if you’d like to also do an oral submission (done in person, in Wellington, or by video call). 

3. We’ve created this template you can use to help you write your submission, and here are some extra tips: 

  • Start with whether you support or oppose the Bill e.g. “I oppose this Bill because…”
  • Use simple and clear bulletpoints – List what you don’t like about the Bill and why?
  • Make recommendations – What are some things you think could make the Bill better?
  • Give a summary – What are the main points you want the committee to remember about your submission.

4. Once you’re ready to go, you’ll be asked to either upload a document or write your submission straight into the box provided in the online form.   

That’s it! You’ve made your submission!  

Frequently Asked Questions

You can have your say with the Select Committee by making a ‘Submission’.

There are different types of submissions you can make to the Select Committee:

  • Written submission – You must make a written submission by filling an online form or going old school and posting a letter to the Select Committee.
  • Oral submission – You can support your written submission with an ‘oral’ (or spoken) submission, where you speak directly about your written submission to the Committee in person or via video call – all publicly live streamed. 

You can make a submission on your own behalf or as part of a group:

  • Individual submission – On your own behalf with your own individual views, experiences and recommendations on the Bill.
  • Group submission – Group submissions are usually made up of groups of likeminded people and organisations, putting forward their shared views on the Bill to show how many people think the same way on the topic.

Still got questions about this process? Check out this diagram.

A ‘bill’ is the name the Government gives to a proposed:

  • New law; or
  • Changes to an existing law

A ‘Select Committee’ is a group of politicians from different political parties who decide what this ‘Bill’ will look like if it is ‘passed’ or made into actual law. There’s also a 1 min explainer vid here.

Your submission will be published to the Parliament website, including your name, a few weeks or months after the deadline date. Please note, only your contact details remain confidential, unless you specifically ask for your name or submission to also be confidential, and your request is approved.

After the 26 January deadline, the Select Committee will contact people who have asked to make an oral submission to organise this.

A team of advisers will read and analyse all submissions and present the results to the Select Committee in a report that will later be made public.

Once the Committee has finished its work on the Bill, it will share what it’s learnt and recommend any changes in a report to parliament.

Once the report has been presented, the Bill will move on to its second reading or be scrapped and not progress any further.

The best way of keeping up with the Bill’s progress is by going to the Bill’s webpage or giving them a call on 0800 7273 6282.

The Independent Children’s Monitor (ICM) exists to make sure Oranga Tamariki and the agencies that care for children on their behalf, meet the National Care Standards (NCS). These Standards outline the minimum levels of service every child and young person can expect to receive while in care or custody, as well as the support all caregivers can expect to receive.  

The ICM began in 2019 after the 2015 Expert Advisory Panel report recommended the need for greater oversight of New Zealand’s child protection system, this view was supported by the 2017 review of independent oversight arrangements for the Oranga Tamariki system and children’s issues. 

The OCC exists to ensure systems are working to support mokopuna to live their best lives. The OCC is an Independent Crown Entity (independent to the Government) and has three key roles: 

  • Monitoring, assessing and reporting on services for tamariki and rangatahi in care. 
  • Advocating (speaking out) on issues that affect children and young people. 
  • Raising awareness and advancing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Children’s Convention).

ERO works for the Government to evaluate and report on the education and care of students in schools, kura, kohanga reo, puna reo, and early childhood services.    

The Ombudsman is independent to the Government and exists to ensure peoples rights are protected and they are treated fairly. They help New Zealanders deal with any issues they are having with the public sector. The Ombudsman handles complaints, undertake investigations and inspections as part of this work.  

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