17 Apr 2024

Oranga Tamariki proposes to cut more than 400 jobs

8:33 pm on 17 April 2024
Chappie Te Kani

Oranga Tamariki chief executive Chappie Te Kani says frontline staff were not part of these changes. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Oranga Tamariki is proposing to cut 447 jobs, reducing its workforce by 9 percent.

The government department in charge of children's welfare said 632 roles would be disestablished, including 70 vacant roles, and 185 new roles would be created.

About 1900 roles would be affected overall - either changed or disestablished - in the "scope of restructuring work" out of 5100 permanent and fixed-term staff - 37 percent of its staff.

In addition, the Ministry of Education proposed on Wednesday to cut 565 jobs.

*If you have information, including documents, about public sector job losses please contact: jemima.huston@rnz.co.nz

'Horrific' impact on staff

An Oranga Tamariki staff member described Wednesday's meeting on the proposal as gut-wrenching.

All business units within the ministry appeared to be affected, with some facing cuts of up to 50 percent, she said.

"Everything from HR to system leadership to policy to the evidence centre. Everything's been impacted really in one way or another."

Her job was set to be disestablished and she would have to apply for a reduced number of roles.

Leaders at Oranga Tamariki reiterated the cuts were not a reflection of work ethic, she said.

"It's just purely numbers, which is such a terrible way to look at it, because I work alongside some of the most dedicated, hard hard-working, passionate people I've ever met. And seeing the impact that will have on some of them is horrific."

It was short-sighted for the agency to say the changes would improve things for tamariki and rangatahi, she said.

"When they're slashing jobs of people who work tirelessly to improve outcomes for them, it's hard to see how this will be a positive impact on any of the work that we do."

All staff were feeling shocked and uneasy but managers had been supportive, the worker said.

Roles affected

Likely to be significantly impacted is the evidence centre which produces research evaluation, analytics and insights about tamariki, rangatahi, their whānau and the work of Oranga Tamariki.

Of the 632 roles slated to be disestablished, 24 percent are broadly manager roles and a third (34 percent) are advisory roles, slides as part of the job loss announcement show.

About 29 percent are from "enabling services functions".

Oranga Tamariki's leadership would be disestablished and consolidated going from eight roles to six, and advice and management support for the chief executive is being downsized.

The office of the chief social worker is being merged with the professional practice group, where 92 roles are proposed to be disestablished and 44 new ones created.

There would be a 19 percent reduction in total number of roles in those teams "from current to future state".

The ministry is also disestablishing the Treaty Response Unit and shifting current responsibilities to other areas.

The aim is to create clear lines of accountability, simplify the structure and enable faster decision making and empower frontline staff to work together more effectively, according to the ministry.

In a statement, Oranga Tamariki chief executive Chappie Te Kani said frontline staff were not part of these changes.

"This change goes to our core as a ministry. It fundamentally moves us away from where we are, towards the kind of ministry we need to be."

For the 632 people who may be affected, he said this proposal would be a "hard read".

"The change also delivers on the savings targets set by the government," he said.

"At this stage, these are proposed changes, once consultation with staff is completed, final decisions will be made."

Ministry of Education building in Bowen Street in Wellington

Photo: Ministry of Education

Kiwis expect government to 'cut down the waste' - PM

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said there would be more investment into both Oranga Tamariki and the MOE in the Budget at the end of May, but the cuts were expected.

"Those are decisions ultimately for the CEOs of those agencies," he said.

"New Zealanders expect us to make sure that we cut down the waste, we end the wasteful spending, and actually we prioritise our frontline services, our public services.

"I appreciate some of those roles are vacancies and others will be real job losses - that will be a tough time for those individuals that have been impacted ... you can be confident as we go through the Budget, there'll be an increase in support and resources and funding for Oranga Tamariki and education."

In the case of Oranga Tamariki, Luxon said: "we have to look after our most vulnerable children".

"It's been a challenged organisation but actually making sure those resources are deployed and forward deployed into better caring for those children."

Luxon repeated his previous comments the government wanted "more medical doctors, not spin doctors", but said that was not a reference to the question he had been asked about the jobs in disability and migrant services.

"I'm not saying that, what I'm saying to you is I'm being very clear with the New Zealand people. And they expect this - let's be clear - there's been a massive amount of bureaucracy that's built up in our system, there has been a huge amount of wasteful spending," he said.

More than 2000 jobs have been cut from the public service so far as ministries try to achieve budget savings of up to 7.5 percent.

Minister for Regulation David Seymour previously indicated that figure could hit 7500.

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