SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW CLOSED.

To view our organisation’s submission, click the PDF here

The next stage in the Select Committee process is for oral submissions (when you speak directly to the Select Committee panel of MPs).

Timing wise, these oral submissions from individuals and groups are expected to take place via zoom or phone from mid Feb to late March 2022.

The Select Committee will report back on the Bill following the submissions process on 14th May 2022.

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. 

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. 

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