14 Jun 2019

Oranga Tamariki uplift backlash taking its toll on social workers

4:56 pm on 14 June 2019

An organisation representing social workers says their members are damned if they do uplift children and damned if they don't.

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Photo: 123RF

Oranga Tamariki is under scrutiny for its treatment of Māori tamariki and their whānau in the way it uplifts babies from their mothers to take them into its care.

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers chief executive Lucy Sandford-Reed said the uplift process requires a family court judge to sign a warrant, it's not just something social workers decide to do.

She said if a social worker did not uplift a child or follow the processes that are in place they could face being put on a job performance plan or even lose their job.

Ms Sandford-Reed said it left social workers in an incredibly difficult position.

"If they don't uplift and the child dies as a result of an assault, it's the social worker that gets hung out to dry, if they do uplift and it gets really public and messy, it's the social worker that gets hung out to dry," she said.

She said the Oranga Tamariki backlash has taken its toll on members.

"We've got members who are on stress leave, who have opted to cancel Facebook pages because of the viciousness of postings from people they don't know, we've got members who are reluctant to go down the street or supermarket, because of the very vicious attacks they are experiencing," she said.

She said the publishing of photos, videos and names of the social workers involved the recent case at Hawke's Bay Hospital has not helped the matter.

"It makes them the target of people who think they know better and these cases, they're incredibly complex and nobody can talk about them publicly because that would be breaching confidentiality, privacy and potentially compromising court hearings," she said.

She said it's incredibly unfair to be identifying the professionals who are doing their job.

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