Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa should be asking tough questions of her officials about how a charity ended up sitting on $2.7 million intended for smoke-free initiatives, National’s Community and Voluntary Sector spokesperson Alfred Ngaro says.
“While Quit Group has finally acknowledged a process for fulfilling its responsibilities, a number of questions remain unanswered regarding its apparent stockpiling of funds and continual payments to board members since the charity ceased operating in 2015.
“Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa needs to ensure this does not happen again.
“The Minister’s comments that she couldn’t force Quit Group to do anything with its money are not good enough. Of course she can tell them what to do, she’s the minister in charge.
“Quit Group broke a promise to New Zealanders and, more importantly, let down communities in need of help.
“Other smoke-free charities like ASH, which are doing a great job, could have benefited from the funds that Quit Group did nothing with.”
The Oranga Tamariki Practice Review has exposed several systemic failures and it’s important those are addressed going forward for the future of our tamariki, National’s Children spokesperson Alfred Ngaro says.
“National pushed for the scope of the review to be widened from the beginning – because it’s important we get things right for vulnerable Kiwi kids. The Government saw sense and the review was stronger for it. It’s an honest review with some tough lessons to learn around professional practice and operational process.
“The review found decision making was rushed and ‘key assessment decisions were made without an understanding of the environment of care parents could provide’ and ‘before engagement with the mother or whānau’.
“Whilst the review exposed standards less than what’s expected from Oranga Tamariki, it’s vital the recommendations from the review are implemented – and that there’s further alignment and coordination going forward.
“There are a number of reviews currently ongoing in the children’s sector, from the Children’s Commissioner, the Ombudsman and of Whānau Ora’s commissioning agents.
“What we need for our tamariki are processes that lead to better outcomes and greater iwi and whānau involvement so we get these services right.
“Hopefully the reviews will lead to fewer gaps and system failures so that the future for every child in New Zealand will be as bright as it should be.”
National will put families at the forefront of our social services sector and ensure they’re supported to raise healthy Kiwi kids, National’s Children spokesperson Alfred Ngaro says.
“Families are at the heart of everything we do, and it’s so important they’ve got the right support available so that Kiwi kids have the best possible start to their lives.
“National is proposing initiatives which will support all Kiwi families. We know families face a diverse range of challenges, and we want to ensure all of those families can access the support they need.
“For example, we know young mums need support. We’ll provide intensive home visiting programmes to all mums under the age of 18 and some under the age of 20. We also want to support young mums to improve their education so they’ve got skills and qualifications that are recognised by employers.
“Up to 90 per cent of a child’s brain development occurs before the age of five, and the most crucial role in this development is played by parents. Some children do struggle, but by improving parental education, we can identify these issues early on in children’s lives.
“We’re also proposing introducing minimum standards for antenatal and postnatal education so parents get accurate, up-to-date information about how to grow happy, healthy Kiwi kids.
“We believe foster carers and grandparents raising grandchildren do an incredible job supporting some of our most vulnerable children. We want to ensure they feel confident, capable and supported, so we’ll ensure appropriate support is available for foster carers. We’ll also look at making emergency income support available for grandparent caregivers.
“We’re aspirational for New Zealanders. We want to give them the targeted, tailored support they need to reach their full potential and live better lives, right from the first 1,000 days.”
The Labour-led Government has refused to progress legislation to make the water a safer place for our young people, National’s spokesperson for Children Alfred Ngaro says.
“I asked Leader of the House Chris Hipkins to adopt my Member’s Bill as Government legislation. This legislation would make lifejackets compulsory for kids under the age of 15 on vessels six metres or less. New Zealand is an island nation, we are surrounded by water and it’s important our children are kept safe.
“Too many people are drowning in New Zealand. My Bill would ensure that young people are safer in the water.
“Drowning is the third-highest cause of unintentional death in New Zealand. It’s something that absolutely must be addressed but the Government is refusing to.
“I have the support of Water Safety New Zealand, Maritime New Zealand and Coastguard New Zealand. They all recommend the default wearing of life jackets on small recreational vessels. This is a measure that could immediately reduce the number of drownings.
“My Bill only relates to children under the age of 15 because, under Maritime Regulations, the minimum age required for skippering a boat is 15.
“The timing for this is right, as we’re about to head into the summer season. Instead, Chris Hipkins has chosen not to prioritise the safety of our young people. I want to stop the tragedies that Kiwi families face every summer through unnecessary drowning.
“Last year 105 people drowned in New Zealand, 92 of those deaths were preventable. Last year’s toll included nine children under 15.
“I want to see all New Zealand children kept safe and this Bill is an important step towards protecting them when they’re on the water. I can’t understand why Labour doesn’t think the same.”
Minister for Children Tracey Martin is clearly out of her depth after admitting she’s not aware of high profile cases of children who are being abused, National’s Children spokesperson Alfred Ngaro says.
“Today in Question Time, I asked the Minister about two cases which featured in the news last week. One of those cases involved a lawyer calling Oranga Tamariki in February to report a father kicking his son in the head which the Ministry still has not acted on.
“But Mrs Martin today said she knew nothing about either case in spite of them featuring prominently in the media.
“It beggars belief that the Minister in charge and her office have not had this flagged to them since it was in the news six days ago. Her job is to protect vulnerable children and she needs to start paying more attention.
“I have contacted the lawyers involved in both cases to clarify the facts and yet the Minister in charge doesn’t even know that they happened.
“Tracey Martin clearly has no idea what’s going on in her own Ministry and where vulnerable children are at risk, that’s simply not good enough.
“The Prime Minister said this Government would put children at the centre of everything it does. That hasn’t been the case for these children.”
Minister for Children Tracey Martin has some work to do to mend fences with those who are well-placed to help New Zealand children in need of foster care, National’s spokesperson for Children Alfred Ngaro says.
“There are 6,000 of our most vulnerable children in care - 70 per cent of whom are Māori. Where possible, they should be with family and whanau if they are the right people to care for them.
“But the recent TradeMe classified debacle shows that Government hadn’t even bothered to talk to Maori to ensure it attracts the best foster carers to help these children lead better lives.
“Iwi are being told to be part of the solution in finding safe and appropriate homes for these children, but the Government isn’t even bothering to work with them.
“Not only will they not engage with iwi on supporting these children but Oranga Tamariki didn’t even bother to take down the ad and address the community’s concerns for a day and a half – that’s not good enough.
“Claims by the CEO of Oranga Tamariki, Grainne Moss, that they acted immediately to take down the information are wrong - it took much longer than that.
“The Minister must now find a way to repair the broken relationship with the Ngā Rauru, Ngāti Ruanui iwi and other concerned iwi after this botched attempt to find foster homes, and the subsequent misleading information.
“Ms Moss claims that Oranga Tamariki has learnt from the mistake. It’s all very well to learn from your mistakes, but not at the expense of a young child looking for a stable environment.
“These children need the best carers and this Government needs to make that happen.”
A scathing report from one of Labour’s union backers following the Government’s decision to pull funding from child support services shows just how egregious the decision is, National’s spokesperson for Children, Alfred Ngaro says.
“Shockwaves are continuing to ripple through communities and interest groups following this week’s announcement from the Government that it will no longer fund the Stand children’s camps in Roxburgh and Otaki, effectively forcing their closure,” Mr Ngaro says.
“Stand needed just $3 million dollars to keep these villages afloat and minister Tracey Martin should have this available in her discretionary fund.
“As the Public Services Association (PSA) points out, this lack of commitment ‘sends a signal that provision of funding for vital services to ensure the well-being of New Zealand’s most vulnerable children, families and whānau needs to be monitored and protected more closely.’
“The community, the Mayors, the unions, and the children rallied to save Stand, but the Government hasn’t listened, and has instead prioritised diplomats over children.
“That extraordinary prioritisation has left 63 people without jobs and 380 traumatised children without a specialised treatment facility.
“The kids at these camps are the most vulnerable in society - they have had sexual, emotional, and physical violence committed against them and the Stand Children’s villages were designed to provide them with the love and support they need to get them back to place of peace.
“I agree with PSA organiser Margaret Takoko that ‘to say the least this is a disappointing result at several levels’, she also reminded us that ‘the loss of these life changing residential programmes … cannot have anything but a negative impact’.
“It is my hope that today, Budget Day, the Government does something to rectify this appalling mistake,” Mr Ngaro says.
The Government’s decision to leave the fate of 380 traumatised children to chance, despite pleas from the community, is a failure of government, leadership, and priorities National’s spokesperson for Children Alfred Ngaro says.
“The Stand children’s camps in Roxburgh and Otaki needed just $3 million to keep running but, instead of acting on her so-called commitment to children, the Prime Minister has chosen to give Winston Peters an eye-watering $1 billion to fritter away on pet foreign affairs projects.
“That extraordinary prioritisation has left 63 people without jobs and 380 traumatised children without a specialised treatment facility.
“The Stand children’s camps are the only agency in Otago that provide intensive residential, wrap-around services for children who have experienced severe trauma.
“Their doors will now be closed, and it’s unknown what will happen to the kids who need this kind of wrap-around support.
“The Government has let down the most vulnerable in our society, despite repeated calls from the National Party, local Mayors, and the community to save the programme.
“For a Prime Minister who has staked her political capital on ending child poverty the position that this Government is taking on this issue is shameful,” Mr Ngaro says.
National’s spokesperson for children Alfred Ngaro is deeply disappointed the Government is refusing to step in and support a vital children’s facility in central Otago to save it from closure.
“The Stand children’s camp in Roxburgh is facing closure unless it receives the $3 million funding boost it needs to keep providing support to the 380 traumatised children that pass through its centre each year,” Mr Ngaro says.
“National has repeatedly called on the Government to step in.
Our local MP Jacqui Dean has made several attempts to speak to the Children’s Minister, Tracey Martin, but has been rebuffed. After a personal approach to the Minister, Jacqui came away with the confirmation that the Minister has no real concern for vulnerable children – despite that being one of the core responsibilities of her role.
“Local Mayors have met with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Tracey Martin but their pleas have also been rejected.
“For a Prime Minister who has staked her political capital on ending child poverty the position that this Government is taking on this issue is extraordinary. The Stand camps are one of the best examples we have of operations that go right to the heart of helping the children most in need.
“The National-led Government invested an extra $1.5 million into Children’s Health Camps in 2009 to help continue this essential trauma-focused treatment service.
“We again call on the Prime Minister to get involved and take a pragmatic approach with Stand to ensure these camps continue, but also to keep a close eye on costs to ensure Stand can keep operating within its financial parameters.
“I hope the Prime Minister walks her talk and gives the organisation the financial support it needs by its Tuesday deadline,” Mr Ngaro says.
The rate of Pacific youth offending more than halved over National’s time in government proving that National had the right plans and policies in place to improve the lives of Pasifika, National’s Pacific People’s Spokesperson Alfred Ngaro says.
“This week we learned that the rate of Pacific youth offending decreased by a significant 61 per cent between 2009/10 and 2016/17.
“This follows the release of NCEA results showing that the number of Pacific students who achieved NCEA Level 2 had improved from just 50 per cent in 2008 to 81 percent last year.
“We know that a lack of education can lead to a young person offending so it’s no surprise that as Pacific student achievement goes up, Pacific youth offending goes down.
“But we also know that National’s focus on youth offending has made a real difference. Our targeted approach to reducing youth crime included the Youth Crime Action Plan, the Social Investment approach, Better Public Service targets and the Pasifika Court.
“There is still more to do, but with a 61 percent reduction in Pacific youth crime, it’s clear that what National was doing was working and we were on the right track.
“National’s concern is that we now have an Ardern-Peters Government that wants to move away from our targeted approach and go soft on crime.
“Pasifika have made big gains in the last decade and we cannot afford to put this all at risk. The Government needs to look at what was working and to continue where National left off.”