Oranga Tamariki Bill will soon be law

 The CYPF (Oranga Tamariki) Bill has passed its second reading and is likely to be made law before the general election.

The Bill significantly changes the 1989 CYPF Act (including retrospectively renaming it the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989) and provides the operating framework for Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children. We are pleased the term ‘vulnerable’ has not been incorporated into the title of the Act, though it remains prominent throughout the Bill.

Some of SSPA’s recommendations in our submission to the social services select committee have been picked up in the revised Bill. In particular, we supported the child-centred approach and processes for ensuring children and young people have a say in decisions affecting them. We also supported some of the changes in the youth justice system, and the greater emphasis on care standards and support for caregivers.

SSPA is pleased to see that the scope for moving children into care has been amended to refer only to children requiring care under the Act, rather than those who come to the attention of the ministry, as originally proposed. We had expressed concern at the net-widening effect of the original wording and support the amended approach. It is also good to see the rights of children and young people with disabilities are now recognised.

But some matters of concern remain. For example, moving children into care “at the earliest opportunity” could undermine efforts at family preservation as the first priority.

One of the key areas raised in our submission was the downgrading of the central role played by family, whānau and kin in the care and protection and the wellbeing of children and young people. In the face of widespread concerns, including from SSPA, a Treaty of Waitangi clause has been added, as we recommended, and the concepts of mana tamaiti (tamariki), whakapapa and whānaungatanga have been extended. While we are pleased with these changes, our central concern remains.

The Labour and Green parties voted against the Bill because of what they see as an insufficient emphasis on whanau placement, as well as other issues including the information-sharing provisions.

The information-sharing provisions were also of concern to SSPA and remain so, despite some revisions. The Bill now provides more detail on the code of practice for information sharing and requires consultation with the Privacy Commissioner. However, concerns remain about the lack of clarity about the purpose for information sharing and the security procedures including around client data sharing. 18 July 2017