The Government has today introduced legislation that will reverse provisions in the Oranga Tamariki Act as part of a path to rebuild trust and confidence in the organisation.
“The Oranga Tamariki Amendment Bill makes a number of changes but by far the most important is the partial repeal of the subsequent child provisions,” Minister of Children Kelvin Davis said.
“While these provisions were introduced by the previous government with the aim of improving the safety of a subsequent child, unfortunately often the opposite occurred and the legislation unfairly impacted on both the young person and their whānau.”
The subsequent child provisions currently apply where a parent has previously had a child permanently removed from their care or has a murder, manslaughter, or infanticide conviction for the death of a child in their care.
A review found the provisions often resulted in increased trauma and distress to the older child, who was often drawn into court proceedings to establish there was no realistic prospect that they would be returned to their parent’s care.
“The provisions also placed social workers in a difficult situation as they undermined the ability of social workers to work meaningfully with whānau, with hapū, with iwi, and with communities.
While issues have been identified with the provisions in relation to parents who have previously had a child permanently removed from their care, those issues do not arise in relation to a parent who has a conviction for the death of a child in their care. For that reason, the retention of provisions in such serious situations will remain.
The partial repeal will also address a continuing breach of the Treaty as noted by the Waitangi Tribunal.
“I am excited by this change, as it signals the start of the direction I want Oranga Tamariki to travel,” Kelvin Davis said.
“I have been clear that things need to change at Oranga Tamariki. Some of those changes will be big and some will be small, but together they add up for a better path for our most at-risk children.”
The Bill also seeks to repeal a redundant information sharing provision and to tidy up a number of minor technical errors and ambiguities in the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.
The Bill is expected to be passed and come into effect in 2022.