27 Feb 2024

Oranga Tamariki defends staff: 'They do everything they can to make a difference'

5:38 am on 27 February 2024
Chappie Te Kani

Oranga Tamariki chief executive Chappie Te Kani Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The head of Oranga Tamariki (OT) says he has confidence in his staff - even if the public does not.

The Chief Ombudsman found the agency is failing on almost every level, in a scathing report released last week.

Speaking at Oranga Tamariki's annual Parliamentary review on Monday, chief executive Chappie Te Kani said he still had confidence in his staff.

"They get out of bed each day to come to work to do everything they can to make a difference for those kids.

"While our reputation of Oranga Tamariki may not give the public confidence, I am confident in our people."

Te Kani told MPs even if OT was a "high performing agency enjoying the trust and confidence of New Zealanders", child abuse would still exist.

The agency was making progress on a number of its standards and targets and would continue to do so despite damming reports, he said.

"We cannot afford to knee-jerk when things go wrong, as they inevitably do in a high-risk operational environment.

"Nor can we be scared when a report does not go in our favour. We need to hold the line and be steadfast in our strategic direction."

Te Kani said he did not have the answers but his frontline staff - and communities - did and Oranga Tamariki was increasingly partnering with local people to care for children.

"We need to devolve our resources and decision making powers to those who understand their communities best so they can prevent children from coming to our attention in the first place."

Existing programmes were piloting this approach, where Crown and communities held dual accountability, he said.

Oranga Tamariki's representatives were quizzed on other topics during yesterday's review, including staff turnover and the impact of the new government's public spending cuts.

Asked about the coalition's plans to repeal 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act, Te Kani said it would not materially change his agency's operations.

"Our core purpose remains the same, our approach to partnering and working with Māori remains the same. That does not change."

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