Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System Act 2022 comes into force
A new law giving the Chief Ombudsman enhanced powers to oversee Oranga Tamariki comes into effect today.
The new law provides Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier with additional powers and duties when dealing with complaints and investigations relating to tamariki, rangatahi, and their whānau, in the Oranga Tamariki system.
Mr Boshier welcomes the Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System Act 2022, noting that the new law reflects necessary changes to help ensure the safety of tamariki and rangatahi.
“This law enables me to focus firmly on the perspectives of tamariki, rangatahi, their whānau and supports a Tikanga Māori approach to this important mahi. I think this is the right step to take to support fairness for all, " says Mr Boshier.
"The complaint, resolution and investigation system at the Ombudsman has been enhanced as a result of the strengthened function. Tamariki and rangatahi and their whānau, hapū, iwi, and communities have told us what they need and what’s important to them. We have adapted the way we work and how we are accessible accordingly and will continue evolving where needed.
“Later in the year I will be launching a number of communications tools and products (dedicated website, videos and written material). We have based the development of these on first-hand research and direct engagement with tamariki and rangatahi who have been in care.
“There is still a lot of mahi to do and we will continue to work hard to get things right for some of our most vulnerable young people,” says Mr Boshier.
Key changes for the Ombudsman resulting from the Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System Act 2022 include:
Stronger role in investigating and resolving complaints for Ombudsman
The Ombudsman will continue to oversee complaints and investigations about the Oranga Tamariki system. This includes complaints about Oranga Tamariki and its approved care or custody providers, as well as other government agencies who interact with people in the oranga tamariki system. The Ombudsman can take complaints where more than one organisation is involved and investigate on their own motion.
The Ombudsman’s powers have been extended to obtain information from Oranga Tamariki or approved providers to the pre-investigation or ‘preliminary inquiry’ stage of the process.
This means on receipt of a complaint the Ombudsman would be able to require Oranga Tamariki to provide information to determine whether an investigation or resolution is appropriate.
Disclosing information to help prevent serious harm
The Ombudsman can disclose information to an appropriate agency or person if it is necessary to mitigate a serious risk of harm to a child, this overrides the secrecy obligations under the Ombudsmen Act 1975.
Supporting continuous improvement for complaints processes
This new legislative function means that the Ombudsman may provide guidance to Oranga Tamariki and care or custody providers on the design of their complaints processes and to support their learning and continuous improvement.
Access to trends and data
Oranga Tamariki will be required to give the Ombudsman broad access to information relating to critical or serious incidents, complaints, and trends and data about complaints.
Improved outcomes for Māori
The Chief Ombudsman must make reasonable efforts to enter arrangements with hapū, iwi and Māori organisations to help the Ombudsman to perform their role. Ombudsman processes must be culturally appropriate and recognise and incorporate a Tikanga Māori approach and give effect to te Tiriti o Waitangi/the Treaty of Waitangi.
Three agencies overseeing the Oranga Tamariki system
The oversight agencies - the Children and Young People’s Commission, Aroturuki Tamariki | Independent Children’s Monitor and the Ombudsman will work together in a comprehensive, cohesive and efficient way to provide strengthened advocacy, monitoring, and complaints and investigation processes in the oranga tamariki system.
On July 1 2023 the Children and Young People’s Commission Act 2022 will also come into force alongside the Oversight of the Oranga Tamariki System Act 2022.
‘No wrong door’
Regardless of which Oversight Agency an individual, tamariki, or rangatahi approaches with an issue, complaint, or other matter, the Oversight Agencies will help them reach the appropriate agency. Those reaching out will know that their safety, wellbeing and care is paramount and any appropriate action will be taken.
The Office of the Ombudsman has produced information to help people that are getting Oranga Tamariki system services know their rights and what to do if they have a concern and want to make a complaint.
The ‘Oranga Tamariki system’ is responsible for providing services like early support, emergency help, care, youth justice and transitions out of care. It also includes work to support whānau wellbeing and reduce risks to Tamariki.
The Oranga Tamariki system services are delivered by Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children, the Police, health and education organisations, iwi, hapū, and Māori social services as well as community organisations.