Second major care reform Bill passes first reading
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says that a Bill enabling the second stage of major state care reforms has passed its first reading in Parliament.
The reforms are part of the overhaul of care and protection, aimed at improving the long-term life outcomes for New Zealand’s most vulnerable children and young people.
“The current system is not delivering the futures that our children deserve,” says Mrs Tolley.
“It needs to be completely transformed if the needs and safety of children and young people are to be placed at the very heart of all decision-making. The significant reforms in the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Oranga Tamariki) Legislation Bill provide the foundations for this new way of operating.”
Proposals in the Bill which will reform the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 Act, 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 community organisations, 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, whanau and caregivers, in addition to separate work on a transparent independent complaints body.
“The government is committed to building a care system which listens to the voice of the child,” says Mrs Tolley.
“Every decision that is made must be in the best interests of the child or young person. Their safety, and their right to have a loving and stable home must always come first.
“It is important that the public, professionals, and most importantly young people with experience in care have an opportunity to have their say on this Bill. That’s why alongside the Select Committee process, I will be continuing to actively engage and meet with communities, iwi, and Maori organisations.”
Notes to editors:
A new operating model for state care, under the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki is being developed, to begin in April 2017. It will be 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.
Initial reforms have already passed into law which:
- 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.