26 May 2018

New phone support service launched for carers of at-risk children

10:31 am on 26 May 2018

The Ministry for Children, Oranga Tamariki, has launched a new round-the-clock support line for caregivers.

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Photo: RNZ Insight / Rebekah Parsons-King

The freephone line will enable those looking after the country's most vulnerable children to speak to a trained social worker at any time.

It is the first of a number of initiatives to be rolled out, aimed at improving the support that is available to caregivers. So far the support line is averaging about 35 calls a day, but that number is expected to grow.

Oranga Tamariki deputy chief executive for care services Trish Langridge said caregivers would be able to ask for help about a range of things.

"Some of them will be quite basic questions, just about, 'Oh look, I need to get sports gear for them, how does that work?' All the way through to, 'They're really unhappy, they're crying, and I need some help to soothe them'."

On-call social workers have always been available after-hours. But Ms Langridge said often caregivers' questions did not require a social worker to be sent out.

"It could be something that could be dealt with over the phone, so by having social workers on the phone 24-7, we're able to deal with things more quickly - and it's less stressful for the caregiver to get something straight away."

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Photo: Oranga Tamariki

Oranga Tamariki is developing new training, providing better peer support and improving its recruitment processes.

This was so people had a better understanding of what they were likely to be faced with as caregivers, Ms Langridge said.

Minister for children Tracey Martin said better support for caregivers was one of the key messages out of an expert panel's report into the former Child, Youth and Family.

The support line would make a big difference to caregivers, she said.

"These children are more complex and they're also children who, because of privacy and things that are going on in their lives, many of these caregivers can't talk to immediate family."

Before Oranga Tamariki employed more caregivers, better support systems needed to be in place, Ms Martin said.