29 September 2021  Media Releases

Transformation of OT can’t come soon enough

The Government’s commitment to “transform” a dysfunctional Oranga Tamariki is welcome and change must be concrete and urgent for children who need help now, the Children’s Commissioner and Assistant Māori Commissioner say.

“Today’s acknowledgment that Oranga Tamariki must be transformed to be mokopuna* and whānau-centred, and to collaborate with Māori and communities is a good first step that can’t come soon enough,” Assistant Māori Commissioner Glenis Philip-Barbara said.

“As the Minister for Children has said, the Advisory Board findings launched today are the latest in a long line of reports calling for problems to be fixed while meaningful change has never been implemented. This time, change must come, and it must come quickly, particularly for mokopuna Māori,” she said.

Commissioner Andrew Becroft added: “We strongly welcome the Government commitment to strengthen and empower communities, and Māori collectives to lead the prevention of harm for mokopuna and whānau.

“While prevention work is vital, there is an urgent need to prevent harm now.  We urge the Government to ensure iwi, hapū and wider whānau will be fully involved, if not leading, in the care of mokopuna now. At the very least that means the State will not remove mokopuna Māori without iwi/hapū knowledge or involvement.

“Many iwi, hapū and whanau groups are ready and willing to care for mokopuna. The idea that the State will always do a better job has proven to be wrong.

“By Maori for Maori approaches to care and protection must be the ultimate goal.

Our two-part review into the uplifts of pēpi Māori, and that of the Waitangi Tribunal found that the removal of these children from their wider whānau and whakapapa can cause devastating and life-long harm.

“Fundamentally, we have all reached the same diagnosis, that the child rescue model has failed mokopuna Māori who, like all children, deserve to be both safe and with their wider whānau. It’s not one or the other.

“Our Office is heartened to see the commitment made to transform the Ministry and will continue to actively monitor this progress. We also urge that the Action Plan involves young people, care experienced people, and others with involvement in the care and protection system,” Commissioner Becroft said.

Minister for Children Kelvin Davis announced today he had accepted all the recommendations of the Ministerial Advisory Board report into Oranga Tamariki. The Board had been unable to assure the Government that the Ministry was functioning well or was fit for purpose.

The Government has committed to the three key recommendations and to set in place an Action Plan to achieve transformation. The recommendations include to: Strengthen and empower Māori and community collectives to lead prevention of harm for mokopuna (children and young people) and whānau; Clarify the purpose of Oranga Tamariki; and rebuild the mana of social work; and establish and national governance board to oversee change.

This follows a two part review by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, reviews by the Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency and the Ombudsman, and findings from the Waitangi Tribunal that the state care and protection system had failed generations of Māori.

The OCC review spoke with mothers, whānau and midwives with experience of the Oranga Tamariki System, and called for power and resources to be transferred to iwi, hapū and whānau to provide care and protection for mokopuna Māori.