Second major care reform Bill introduced
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says the second stage of major legislative reforms aimed at improving the long-term life outcomes for New Zealand’s most vulnerable children and young people has been introduced into Parliament.
“Significant reform is essential for truly transformational change in the overhaul of state care and protection, to provide children and young people with loving, stable homes and the successful lives they deserve,” says Mrs Tolley.
“This means that the child and their safety, protection and needs must always come first, under the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki.
“An expert panel found that the current system is not delivering effectively for vulnerable children and young people. We need bold and radical change, as outlined in our multi-year overhaul, focused on prevention, intensive intervention, care support, youth justice, and transition support into adulthood, with a much greater emphasis on harm and trauma prevention and early intervention rather than simply crisis management.”
The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Oranga Tamariki) Legislation Bill represents the most far-reaching reform to the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 Act since it was introduced nearly thirty years ago. Proposals in the Bill include:
- Allowing young people to remain in care or return to care up until the age of 21, with transition support and advice available up to 25
- Enabling the establishment of an information sharing framework to keep vulnerable children and young people safe from harm
- Extending the youth justice system to include lower-risk 17 year olds
The Bill also includes changes to the purposes and principles of the Act to:
- place children and young people at the centre of decision-making and consider them within the context of their families, whanau, hapu and iwi and broader networks and communities
- support families, whanau, hapu, iwi and caregivers and enable them to provide a safe, stable and loving home
- strengthen the relationships between children and young people and their family, whanau, hapu, and iwi, especially between siblings.
When making decisions under the CYPF Act, decision-makers will need to consider:
- The family, whanau and usual caregiver are strengthened and supported to enable them to care for the child or young person
- Wherever possible the relationship between the child or young person and their family, whanau and usual caregiver is respected, supported and strengthened, and
- The family, whanau, hapu, iwi and usual caregiver have a voice and a role in decisions made about the child or young person.
The Bill amends the purposes and principles of the Act to give explicit recognition to key Māori concepts of mana tamaiti / tamariki, whakapapa and whanaungatanga when working with tamariki Māori.
There are specific measures to recognise and reflect a commitment to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, including a requirement for the Ministry to develop strategic partnerships with iwi and Māori organisations, which is already underway.
The Bill also includes the establishment of enhanced complaints processes for children, young people and their families, whānau and caregivers, in addition to separate work on a transparent independent complaints body.
“The voices of children and young people are crucial as we implement the new operating model over the next 4-5 years and in the decades ahead, if we are to deliver a world-class care system,” says Mrs Tolley.
“The youth panel advising me, made up of young people with experience in care, made it very clear to me that they want the system to stop experimenting with their lives. They wanted a safe, stable and loving home at the earliest opportunity, with links to their cultural identity and connections.
“The government is determined to make sure this happens.”
Further information on the reform programme can be found at:
Notes to editors:
Initial reforms have already passed a third reading in Parliament to:
- Extend the age of state care and protection to a young person’s 18th birthday
- Ensure the views of children and young people are taken into account as part of decision making at an individual level and in the development of services and policy
- Support the establishment of an independent youth advocacy service, and
- Enable the broader range of professionals with specialist skills who will widen the expertise within the new model to perform some functions under the Act. Social workers would still be the main professionals responsible for carrying out these functions.
A new operating model, under the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki is being developed, to begin in April 2017, and unlike Child, Youth and Family it will not simply focus on crisis management, but will ensure better long-term life outcomes for children and young people in care. This includes:
- A new child-centred operating model with a greater focus on harm and trauma prevention and early intervention. It will provide a single point of accountability for the long-term wellbeing of vulnerable children, with the voice of the child represented in planning and strategy. A social investment approach using actuarial valuations and evidence of what works will identify the best way of targeting early interventions, to ensure that vulnerable children and families receive the care and support they need, when they need it.
- Direct purchasing of vital services such as health, education and counselling support to allow funding to follow the child, so that these young people can gain immediate access to assistance.
- A stronger focus on reducing the over-representation of Māori young people in the system. Currently, six out of ten children in care are Māori.
- Intensive targeted support for caregivers, including some increased financial assistance and better access to support services. For the first time, National Care Standards will be introduced so that there is a clear expectation for the standard and quality of care in placement homes. A new trauma-informed Professional Practice Framework will also be introduced for staff.
Budget 2016 invested $347 million to support the transformation to the new operating model and for cost pressures.