The third annual report on compliance with the National Care Standards Regulations has found that, while some things are improving for tamariki and rangatahi in care, they are still not seeing their social workers often enough, their caregivers continue to need more support, and greater prioritisation and co-ordination is needed across government agencies.
The National Care Standards Regulations have been in place since 2019. Experiences of Care in Aotearoa 2022/2023 is the report from Aroturuki Tamariki – the Independent Children’s Monitor on compliance with these regulations by agencies with custody and care of tamariki (children) and rangatahi (young people).
Aroturuki Tamariki Chief Executive Arran Jones says he had expected to see more improvement, particularly in the rate of social worker visits, in this third report.
“After our first two reports, Oranga Tamariki committed to improving the frequency of social worker visits with tamariki and rangatahi. However, we are yet to hear about an improvement from tamariki and rangatahi or see improvement in the data. The Oranga Tamariki response to our latest report is silent on what it is going to do to improve its performance in this area. Seeing and engaging with tamariki and rangatahi helps social workers better understand their current needs, ensures they are getting the support they need, as well as checking on their safety and wellbeing,” says Mr Jones.
Key findings of Experiences of Care in Aotearoa 2022/2023 include:
- There has been no improvement in the frequency of Oranga Tamariki social worker visits over the past three years, with 40 percent of tamariki and rangatahi still not seeing their social worker at least every eight weeks or as agreed.
- More tamariki and rangatahi are involved in plans and decisions about their lives. However, we heard from some tamariki, rangatahi and whānau that they don’t feel listened to by Oranga Tamariki.
- Oranga Tamariki data shows that tamariki and rangatahi are moving from placement to placement less than they have in the past. Transitions within and out of care are reducing, from 48 percent in 2020/2021 to 25 percent this year.
- Fewer rangatahi leaving Oranga Tamariki care for independence are being supported. A decreasing number, down to 38 percent this year, had an assessment of their life skills as part of their move to independence. Even though more rangatahi were offered a referral to transition services (up to 71 percent), we heard that referrals were often too late and fewer rangatahi had a transition plan developed (down to 48 percent this year).
- There was an improvement in Oranga Tamariki social workers visiting caregivers (half are now visited at the planned frequency) and in the development of caregiver support plans. However, the plans don’t always get followed and caregivers still don’t get the support they need.
- Collaboration and information sharing between government agencies remains a barrier to providing better support to tamariki in care, particularly between Oranga Tamariki and education and health. However, this year we have started to see positive examples of agencies working together.
- More education needs assessments are taking place, but it’s not clear if tamariki and rangatahi are getting the extra help they need at school as a result. Oranga Tamariki can’t tell us how often tamariki and rangatahi are going to school, but Open Home Foundation receive attendance updates for 40 percent of its tamariki and rangatahi.
- There has been an improvement in tamariki and rangatahi having plans to address their health needs, but we do not know if those plans are followed. We heard how hard it is to get help when tamariki and rangatahi need to see someone about their mental health, and Oranga Tamariki couldn’t tell us how many tamariki and rangatahi had wellbeing screens when they were feeling really low.
- Oranga Tamariki has started to improve the data it collects to see if it is meeting the regulations but is some way off being able to its measure its compliance as well as Open Home Foundation.
“The obligation is on Oranga Tamariki to properly implement and meet these minimum standards for every child in its care. When a child is taken into care by the state, the state must do a better job as a parent than the home that child was removed from.”
“We keep hearing that Oranga Tamariki is committed to improving its compliance with the NCS Regulations, but what we’re seeing is a gap between the experience of those on the frontline and those in national office. Policies and practices may be set out, but it is not necessarily what is done or understood at the frontline. The best interests of the child should be at the centre,” Mr Jones said.
Self-monitoring is a requirement of the regulations for those agencies with custodial care. Mr Jones said the development of ‘lead indicators’ by Oranga Tamariki is a step forward in its self-monitoring.
“The initial lead indicators developed by Oranga Tamariki are a good step forward. These indicators are focused heavily on assessment and planning, and we encourage Oranga Tamariki to continue developing these, so it knows whether the required services and support are actually delivered,” Mr Jones said.
Oranga Tamariki assessed itself as ‘partially compliant’ with the NCS Regulations and advised that 45 percent of tamariki had the six ‘core’ lead indicators met in 2022/2023, an improvement on 31 percent of tamariki in 2021/2022. Oranga Tamariki also advised that 28 percent of tamariki in its care were found to have 14 lead indicators met, an improvement on 18 percent of cases in 2021/2022.
“Across our three Experiences of Care reports we have now covered the motu (country) and thank the more than 400 tamariki and rangatahi, nearly 600 caregivers and whānau, 1,100 Oranga Tamariki staff and more than 1,000 other professionals we heard from in our community visits. These voices offer incredibly valuable insights into their experience and where improvements are most needed,” Mr Jones said.
Read the report https://aroturuki.govt.nz/reports/experiences-of