23 Jun 2019

PSA deplores recent coverage of Oranga Tamariki amid rise in staff abuse

8:54 am on 23 June 2019

The union for social workers says there's been a significant increase in abuse of its members in recent days as a result of scathing coverage of Oranga Tamariki.

Unrecognizable mother holding her newborn baby son in her arms, close up of legs and hands.

Photo: 123rf

Three inquiries have been launched into the Children's Ministry as a result of a public outcry over the attempted removal of a six-day-old baby from its mother at Hawke's Bay Hospital last month.

In a statement, the Public Service Association said its members had always experienced high levels of online and in-person abuse, and for many, it's become worse in recent days and weeks.

"Social workers have a responsibility for and a commitment to social justice and social change. It is embedded within our code of ethics and is an integral part of a social worker's role. It is a hard task - speaking out can be scary and leave people feeling vulnerable," the statement read.

"We know that if social workers feel empowered, they will speak out if they feel something is unjust. It is why we went into the profession to start with."

The statement points out that social workers often challenge the authorities - sometimes at great personal cost - to get the best outcomes for children and families.

It criticises the media for focusing on Oranga Tamariki as a sole entity, when, in reality, the issue involves all of society.

"There is too much finger pointing and abuse of individuals. This is about all of us. Our members want to be part of the solution and there are few who are better equipped to lead in this space."

However, the union acknowledged the agency needed to improve and advocated better resources for social workers.

"It must be acknowledged that our workplaces are manifestations of our communities. Both good and bad. Where racism exists in our communities, it will manifest in workplaces. Oranga Tamariki is no exception to this.

"We all have a part to play in recognising this and looking to ensure that systems, processes and behaviour in our environments are subject to critical reflection."

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