17 Apr 2024

Children's Commissioner fears monitoring work at Oranga Tamariki will go with job cuts

8:42 pm on 17 April 2024

The Chief Children's Commissioner fears critical work that monitors how Oranga Tamariki runs will be lost amongst job cuts.

Oranga Tamariki has confirmed on Wednesday 447 jobs will be cut, reducing its workforce by 9 percent, as part of the government's directive to make cost savings.

RNZ understands Oranga Tamariki's policy and Evidence Centre teams are being significantly cut affecting people who provide background information and insights about tamariki to help inform training for front line staff.

Oranga Tamariki chief executive Chappie Te Kani said the job cuts would help move the ministry to where it needs to be.

The proposed cuts did not affect front line staff and final decisions would be made once staff had been consulted, he said.

Chief children's commissioner Claire Achmad said she was concerned to hear about the proposed significant job losses in the child protection system.

"Our child protection workforce is a group of people who exist to focus on just that, child protection."

Oranga Tamariki aims to both prevent harm affecting the lives of children and to respond to harm by wrapping support around those young people and their whānau, she said.

"Whether working behind the scenes or directly with children, young people and their families, this is work that really matters in the lives of children and young people."

Work done in policy teams and the evidence and research teams is crucial to the work that happens directly with children and young people on a day-to-day level, she said.

But Achmad said at this point she could not say that the cuts to Oranga Tamariki would harm children.

"What I do think we need to look closely at is how taking away some of these roles that are proposed to be cut may have impact in the lives of children and young people."

Oranga Tamariki needed to have a very clear plan about how it would deliver the basics of its work to ensure that the child protection system stopped harm from occurring in the first place and to ensure that children were safe in its care, she said.

It was well documented that New Zealand had a major problem with child abuse and neglect, she said.

"We need to have a really bold and well invested approach so that we can address this problem that we have around child abuse and neglect in our country."

The chief executive of Oranga Tamariki is very committed to doing a great job for children under its care, she said.

"But what I need to see as the independent advocate for children including those in Oranga Tamariki care is a very clear plan as to how it's going to deliver on the basics of its work of child protection."

The work of child protection was everyone's responsibility - not just Oranga Tamariki's, she said.

Greater investment was needed into addressing the underlying causes that led to causing child abuse and harm happening in the first place, she said.

"Things like poverty, things like mental health, things like our housing situation in this country."

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