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Media release

Chief Ombudsman calls for changes to Oranga Tamariki ‘on scale rarely required’

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Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier is calling on the Government to make changes to Oranga Tamariki on a scale rarely required of a government agency.

“I am making this call because I regret to say I cannot yet provide reassurance that the practices and processes used by Oranga Tamariki are consistently operating as they ought to.”

Mr Boshier’s comments follow the publication of his report today that details complaints he has dealt with about Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children over the past four years.

“In preparation for my enhanced role under the Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System Act, which came into force mid-last year, I have been reviewing 2000 complaints and other enquiries I have dealt with from people about Oranga Tamariki and its predecessor agencies.

“I have spent the last year analysing these complaints and enquiries, including those from tamariki and rangatahi, and compiled a comprehensive report on practices and processes by Oranga Tamariki.

“While there are areas of good practice and outcomes, which I have acknowledged, my report contains some extremely distressing stories. They include a rangatahi kept in an institution against their wishes for years, and a young disabled mother whose baby was uplifted at birth and never returned.

“I share the hope of the complainants I spoke to that sharing their stories provides transparency, accountability and an opportunity for Oranga Tamariki and the new Government to really make profound changes to the way the Ministry operates,” Mr Boshier says.

The report, Children in care: complaints to the Ombudsman 2019-2023, details the types and numbers of complaints to the Ombudsman about Oranga Tamariki, emerging themes from the complaints, relevant case studies, and how the Ombudsman resolves issues for complainants and to improve the system as a whole. The report also covers the recommendations the Ombudsman makes to Oranga Tamariki, and how and when Oranga Tamariki responds to these recommendations.

In his conclusion, Mr Boshier has detailed measures he believes Oranga Tamariki should take to address the issues he has identified and embed good practice. They include an organisation-wide quality improvement plan, ensuring staff understand and apply legislation and policy, better attention to detail and accurate information in decision making, more training and supervision, regular tracking and reporting, and keeping better records overall.

Mr Boshier says he has already achieved a raft of important changes following his investigations over recent years.

“Oranga Tamariki court documents, for example, must now include a comprehensive, balanced, and accurate analysis of the risks and benefits of placements.”

There is a new section on the Oranga Tamariki Practice Centre, on seeking the views of tamariki and rangatahi in decisions that affect them. There has also been a review of Oranga Tamariki policies and procedures to ensure a full search for whānau, hapū and iwi is undertaken and documented as early as possible in the placement process.

Mr Boshier says Oranga Tamariki also agreed to scope a review of its practices and policies around its involvement with disabled parents. It is now in the process of implementing a disability strategy.

“However, it is abundantly clear that much more work is required.

“Following my investigation into complaints from the family of young Malachi Subecz in 2022, I said I would be on the back of Oranga Tamariki every week and I have been. Along with my regular meetings with the chief executive, my staff and I are in constant contact with the Ministry regarding complaints and other inquiries to me. This will continue.”

Read Children in care: complaints to the Ombudsman 2019–2023

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