Lack of consensus with Oranga Tamariki needs fixing fast

Oranga Tamariki

There is a worrying and “growing gap” in the care of at-risk children and young people. It exists between families with risks that are too complex for charities to manage – and the point where Oranga Tamariki will get involved.

New Otago University research says a “clearer consensus” is needed as to when cases indicating abuse or neglect should be reported to Oranga Tamariki.

The researchers say that when charities advise Oranga Tamariki about at-risk children and young people, decisions are often delayed or sometimes even silence follows.

They say more frontline funding is needed, both for Oranga Tamariki and the charities caring for children and young people.

Local experience

Claire Ramsay, chief executive of Otago Youth Wellness Trust, says the research “confirms our experience locally”.

“We make reports of concern only as a last resort, as our priority is to keep rangatahi out of the statutory/state system. But more and more we are finding that they don’t reach the apparently high threshold Oranga Tamariki is working to.

“It is frustrating and, like others in the community sector, our funding does not reflect the work we are doing.”

Methodist Mission Southern director Laura Black says a standards-driven approach would be “really useful”.

However it must produce reliable results for children and young people across different cultures and backgrounds.

Left waiting

A Dunedin charity’s leader, who prefers not to be named, confirms their organisation is supporting ever more at-risk children.

Over the past five years, the charity’s involvement with Oranga Tamariki cases has increased from “hardly any to around 40 percent”.

Yet when charities file a “report of concern” to Oranga Tamariki, they might be left waiting.

The agency is less likely to get involved than it was formerly if a community organisation is already working on the children’s behalf.

At risk, anxious

Emily Keddell, Otago University’s associate professor in social and community work, is the study’s lead author.

She says the current situation leaves children at risk and creates anxiety among charity workers.

Charities are tasked with helping families to stay together she says. Their objective is to have fewer children in care – but they need appropriate resourcing.

Families deserve the best

Acting Oranga Tamariki chief social worker Nicolette Dickson says children, young people and their families “deserve the best”.

She says Oranga Tamariki is working to “change a system which has not always consistently provided this to them”.

She explains delays occur because the agency workloads are often greater and more complex than the staff’s ability to cope, which affects their response times.

“However, we will always seek to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of those children and young people who are at most risk.”

Dixon says the agency is grateful for the Otago University research, as it helps identify gaps requiring attention.

She says it is a “key focus” of how the agency is working to strengthen relationships in the community.

“It is often our community partners who understand this best.”

She is disappointed some community organisations feel they have nowhere to turn. “We encourage them to raise these concerns with us when this occurs” she says.


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News category: New Zealand.

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