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‘Urgent work needed to ensure all children and young people in state care are safe’

Mana Mokopuna – Children and Young People’s Commission is calling for continued and urgent focus on ensuring all children and young people in state care are safe.

Oranga Tamariki released its annual report on the safety of children and young people in state care yesterday.

It shows that in the last year, more children and young people have experienced abuse and neglect while in state care compared to previous years, and the number of findings of harm in care has increased. This is despite fewer children and young people being in care.

The report, Safety of Children in Care covers the year to June 2023, and shows that 519 children in care experienced an incident of harm. The report found a total of 895 incidences of harm, an increase from the previous year.

Chief Children’s Commissioner Dr Claire Achmad says the incidences of physical, emotional and sexual harm of children and young people shown in today’s report, as well as neglect, are very concerning.

“Every child and young person in care should be safe – it’s their right. I acknowledge that for these children and young people that sit behind today’s published data, they haven’t experienced this – the system has let them down.

“Within the information shared in this report, I am highly concerned about the high numbers of mokopuna Māori who are experiencing harm in the care system, and I urge continued focus on partnership-based mahi with whānau, hapū and iwi.”

Dr Achmad says that Mana Mokopuna – Children and Young People’s Commission acknowledges the insights in Oranga Tamariki’s report and its self-assessment, also published yesterday, relating to the National Care Standards. They provide important information about the care system and what needs to change so that every child and young person in the Oranga Tamariki system experiences their full range of rights.

“While some areas of work show improvement, the harm that mokopuna in care continue to suffer is unacceptable. As the independent advocate for all mokopuna in Aotearoa New Zealand, we want to see every child in our country growing up safe, loved and well – that includes every child and young person in state care. First and foremost, they are children and young people, and they must be safe when in the care of the state,” she says.

Today’s report shows that mokopuna aged 14 and older are experiencing more harm in the state care system. The safety of children and young people in residences is an issue that Mana Mokopuna – Children and Young People’s Commission has consistently identified through regular monitoring of youth justice and care and protection residences across the motu.

An increase in harm to children in return and remain home placements over the past year also highlights the urgent need for improved assessment, planning and support in these situations – including for families and whānau before children and young people return home from care, as well as thorough and robust follow-up care for mokopuna and their whānau, as detailed in a recent report by Aroturuki Tamariki – Independent Children’s Monitor.

“I want to see every child and young person in the Oranga Tamariki system receiving the best possible care that enables them to be safe and to thrive. Every child and young person in care has the greatest potential, and their time in care should focus on enabling that to flourish, not cause further harm.

“I remain committed to working with Oranga Tamariki to further understand its work to urgently improve practice and strengthen working relationships with other agencies, to make sure all children and young people are safe in while in state care.”

Dr Achmad says Mana Mokopuna – Children and Young People’s Commission is pleased to see Oranga Tamariki commit to refining its practice in its self-assessment report, and will be working closely as an oversight system partner to monitor its progress and advocate for the rights, interests, wellbeing and participation of mokopuna.

“As one of the three organisations tasked with providing oversight of the Oranga Tamariki System, our advocacy for and with children and young people in care will continue to strengthen, as we play our part to ensure every child and young person in care is safe and their inherent potential nurtured.”

 

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