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Minister indicates rethink on Māori children in care; Select Committee hears submissions

March 17, 2017 at 10:22 AM

*From the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse*

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has indicated she will reconsider draft legislative provisions that would deprioritise placing Māori children in state care with whānau, hapū and iwi.

Radio NZ reported that Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley had spent the last few weeks visiting iwi around the country and talking to the Māori Party and it was clear the wording was not right.

Radio NZ reported that Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox said the issue was a deal-breaker for her party, and she was pleased the government was now bowing to pressure.

Green Party MP Jan Logie said "This is a huge victory for Māori organisations and communities who have campaigned strongly on the importance of tamariki Māori remaining connected to their whakapapa and in the care of their whanau, hapū and iwi."

Ms Logie also said "Getting the law right is one thing but the Government also needs to ensure CYFs and Māori organisations are properly resourced to be able to actually implement whānau-first placements, so that we can reduce the level of tamariki Māori in state care."

The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Oranga Tamariki) Legislation Bill has been heavily criticised for deprioritising placing Māori children in care with whānau, hapū and iwi by removing section 13(2)(g) from the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989. This section gives priority, where practicable, to whānau, hapū, iwi and family group placements when a decision is made to remove a child or young person from their usual caregivers.

Submissions on the Bill

Select Committee is currently hearing submissions on the Bill.

The Children's Commissioner's submission proposes an alternative version of section 13, clarifying that hapū, iwi, and wider family group would be given priority consideration both when a child is at risk of removal and after the decision is made that a child will be removed. The summary of key recommendations outlines specific concerns and the proposed alternative section 13 as well as a range of other suggestions. The Commissioner questions the lack of adequate focus on meeting the needs of Māori tamariki and rangitahi, saying:

"We can see little evidence that the new system has been designed with the needs of the majority of the children and young people it serves at the centre – that is, starting from a Māori world view. Rather, the Māori concepts introduced in the Bill give the impression of being secondary considerations for Māori children in addition to the purposes and principles that apply to all children who come into contact with the care and protection and youth justice systems."

The Commissioner also identifies "significant notes of caution" regarding the need for organisational culture change and transformational thinking.

Radio Waatea has livestreamed some of the public oral submissions to Select Committee on their Facebook page.

Parliament will eventually make written submissions public but several organisations have made their submissions available.

The Privacy Commissioner's submission raises serious concerns about amendments related to information sharing introduced in Clause 38:

"I support the Bill's intent to improve the care and protection of vulnerable children and to clarify agencies' ability to share information where necessary to do so. However, the information sharing provisions contained in clause 38 have been developed without adequate consultation, are complex and fragmented, and will be harder to understand than the current legislative regime. My view is that as currently drafted the information sharing provisions in the Bill will not deliver the intent of improving information sharing, and may make things worse for some of the most vulnerable."

The Privacy Commissioner has also proposed an alternative version for Clause 38.

The NZ Law Society submission raises concerns that the proposed legislation is a fundamental change to child protection services that cannot be achieved through amendments.

Otago University Dean of Law Professor Mark Henaghan said "We're shifting the focus from what under the current legislation is a kind of minimum intervention, with regard to children who may be at risk, to an early intervention model."

UNICEF has said the proposed legislation is at risk of breaching the UN Convention on Rights of the Child. 

Other submissions available include:

Child Poverty Action Group submission

New Zealand Psychological Society submission

Social Service Providers of Aotearoa submission

This week Minister Anne Tolley announced she will ask Parliament’s Social Services Committee to propose changing the name of the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 (the CYPF Act) to the Oranga Tamariki Act.

Background information

See these previous NZFVC news stories:

Closing date extended for submissions on child protection bill; Māori continue to raise concerns, February 2017

Submissions are open on the second piece of legislation to reform child care and protection services, December 2016

Treaty claim lodged on move away from whānau, hapū, iwi placements for children in care, December 2016

Proposal to deprioritise placing Māori children in care with whānau, hapū, iwi criticised, September 2016

Selected media

Govt backs down over whānau-first care, Radio NZ, 16.03.2017

VIEWPOINT: Whānau, hapū and iwi-first must remain a priority for Māori children: Marama Davidson, Mana, 15.03.2017

Back to the table over controversial 'whanau first' clause, Government to soften stance, 15.03.2017

Backdown on whānau-first placements a victory for Māori, Media release: Green Party, 15.03.2017

Oranga Tamariki Bill flaws highlighted, Waatea News, 15.03.2017

“Muddled” and “confusing” Bill must be fixed, Press release: Labor Party, Scoop, 15.03.2017

Child welfare bill: 'Scrap it and start again', Radio NZ, 07.03.2017

Category: Policy and Legislation