29 Oct 2022

Christchurch care home remains closed one year after video leak

2:08 pm on 29 October 2022
Oranga Tamariki Sign

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

A care and protection residence in Christchurch is still closed a year after Oranga Tamariki launched an investigation into misconduct there.

In June last year the chief executive of Oranga Tamariki closed Te Oranga residence after Newsroom released leaked footage of a young person being tackled and held in a headlock.

In October that year Oranga Tamariki said the site would reopen, but that decision was reversed a month later.

In response to an Official Information Act request, Oranga Tamariki deputy chief executive of service delivery Rachel Leota said a decision was made to pause operations at the site in November last year.

Consultation was continuing around how Te Oranga could be used in the future, and further work was underway on the options for secure care and protection residences, she said.

There were currently no secure care and protection residences operating within the Canterbury region operated by Oranga Tamariki, Leota said .

Te Oranga was one of four care and protection residences nationwide, and could provide secure care for 10 young people aged between 10 and 16.

Since 5 July 2021, there had been seven people referred from within the Canterbury region that were accepted into national secure care and protection residences, Leota said.

"As a national service, when considering location the preference is to keep tamariki as close to their own community supports as possible. Concurrently, consideration is given to the risks and impact on the tamariki already in residence.

"Teams in residences develop strategies which will need to be included to manage group dynamics and risks."

Seven staff members were still based at Te Oranga - youth workers, administration and kitchen staff. The kitchen staff provide meals and menu planning for tamariki who live in community homes operated by Oranga Tamariki in the region.

Christchurch lawyer and youth advocate Siobhan McNulty said the only remaining secure care and protection facility in the South Island was now Puketai in Dunedin.

"The loss of those ten beds has obviously put pressure on Puketai," McNulty said.

"I've been involved in cases where young people are needing to go into residences and there is a long waiting list to get into Puketai, which I'm sure part of the reason must be the closure of Te Oranga and the pressure on Puketai."

The long wait to make a decision about the fate of Te Oranga was unacceptable, McNulty said.

And moving young people from their home town often disrupted their relationships with local support agencies and youth workers.

Ara Taiohi is a group that provides support to youth workers and organisations and chief executive Jane Zintl said the on-going closure would make it more difficult for the young people sent to care and protection residences from Christchurch to stay connected with family and other support networks.

"The challenge is not unique to Ōtautahi Christchurch though," Zintl said.

"Anyone in a rural area who may need a place in care and protection is going to have to travel. So you could say its not just an issue for Christchurch, though it is a significant population base."

Zintl said she would like to see more smaller residences scattered around the country.

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