Changes which started yesterday will provide New Zealand’s most vulnerable children and young people with far greater help and support, Children’s Minister Tracey Martin says.

“For too long New Zealand has been grappling with how to better protect and help children who are at risk of harm,” Minister Martin says.

“Most recently, in 2015, the Expert Advisory Panel (EAP) on Modernising CYF advised the government that the country needed a new, child-centred agency that would lead the change to a completely different care, protection and youth justice system.

“Since 2017, Oranga Tamariki has made good progress in strengthening its core services and building the foundations for today’s shift. It has recruited 350 more caregivers for children and 270 more social workers, and tried new ways of working including community based remand homes and strategic partnerships with iwi.

“However, the step change that we need to transform the care system required a major funding boost, and the $1.1 billion investment in the Wellbeing Budget has provided that.”

From today, five major changes occur:

• New National Care Standards come into effect – the first time New Zealand’s state care system will have explicit care standards letting children in care and their caregivers know what to expect and what is required.

• Most 17-year-olds will be included in the youth justice system, instead of the adult system, with an increased focus on education, training and rehabilitation to provide the skills to stop their offending.

• A new service to support an estimated 3,000 young people to prepare for and transition successfully from care and youth justice services to adulthood begins.

• Explicit Treaty obligations take effect which sets out the Ministry’s responsibilities to improve outcomes for Māori children and young people, and their whānau.

• A new intensive intervention service that will work with families to keep children safe at home will be rolled out, and NGO and iwi providers of early intervention services receive a funding boost.

“Breaking the cycle of child harm requires intervention at the earliest possible point and better support for children in care so they can live the lives they deserve,” Mrs Martin says.

“We want fewer children in state care. Children need to be safe, but they want to be with their families and whanau and we have to support that to happen more.

“If children and young people are in care we want them to get any extra help they need, and as much as possible, to have the same sorts of lives as any other Kiwi kids.

“And we want them to leave care ready for the start of adult life, and knowing that there’s support if they want it.”

The Minister said that the changes within Oranga Tamariki addressed major historic gaps in the care and protection system.

“I have to reiterate, however, that no government agency can deliver better outcomes for children on its own and the government system isn’t New Zealand’s child care system.

“Looking after our children and families is a job for all of New Zealand. It is the most difficult parts of that work that usually fall on government agencies and NGO and Māori providers.”

The Minister said that the new Oranga Tamariki operating model beginning today and the Wellbeing Budget acknowledged the role of these community-based groups.

“In total we expect the new model and spending to involve around 900 new roles by the end of year four – that’s across areas like the new intervention and transition services, supported accommodation and community youth justice placements.

“We expect iwi, Māori organisations and NGOs to provide about half of those required roles.”

There is also money explicitly for partners, for example $26 million to meet cost pressures in early intervention services, and $29 million to better support iwi, Māori and NGO providers of care to meet the care standards.

Intensive and early intervention – A new Intensive Intervention service will use highly skilled, family/whānau intensive support workers to work with families and whānau of children most at risk of entry or re-entry into State care to support them to remain safely at home.

This partnered approach will be rolled out to five Oranga Tamariki sites or areas covering around 150 families and 400 children in its first year. In addition, the Budget provides $26 million over four years for the Ministry’s NGO partners currently providing early intervention services.

Improved care – The new National Care Standards are supported by an investment of $524 million over the next four years. This will fund an extra 350 frontline staff including social workers, more caregivers and improved support for caregivers. An extra 60 dedicated support staff for caregivers will include caregiver social workers and there will be new specialised training for all caregivers, including for those who have children with high behavioural needs

$70 million will go towards better meeting the needs of the individual children in care – providing things like toys, books, laptops, sports equipment and specialist health resources.

Transition services – A relationship-based service with 175 staff will support young people to prepare to leave care, respond to their needs as they leave and help them gain their independence. It will provide advice and assistance, after-hours support and broker services and housing supports.

The $153.7 million initiative also provides supported accommodation places for young people who need a stepping stone to independent living, and allowances for these young people to continue to live with a caregiver after they turn 18.

Youth justice – extra funding will support the extra numbers of young people in the system, and an increased focus on education, training and rehabilitation.

Over the last year, Oranga Tamariki has built and successfully run four new community-based remand homes that take a more therapeutic approach to youth justice. Up to 16 of these small, community-based homes will be built over four years, contributing to 100 additional youth justice placements. An extra 300 staff – youth workers, night care workers and team leaders – will work in these facilities.

Tamariki Māori – Extra funding will allow Oranga Tamariki to provide appropriate care to the 70 per cent of children and young people in care who are Māori, and to work in different ways.

Section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, which takes effect on 1 July 2019, sets out the Ministry’s responsibilities in line with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi to improve outcomes for Māori children and young people, and their whānau. To support this, the Ministry will build on its strategic partnerships and relationships with iwi and Māori organisations. New funding will allow an ongoing commitment to Māori specialist roles, including Kairāranga and Iwi Family Group Conference co-ordinators, and new Whānau Care Partnerships with iwi and Māori organisations providing models for the development and support of caregivers.