30 Jul 2020

Oranga Tamariki sees lowest rate of Māori entering state care since 2004

4:48 pm on 30 July 2020

Oranga Tamariki says it has seen fewer children entering state care since its name change and the establishment of its Treaty of Waitangi commitments.

Oranga Tamariki CEO Gráinne Moss.

Oranga Tamariki Grainne Moss has made her first progress report on Section 7AA. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The new figures are outlined in chief executive Grainne Moss' first report on progress being made to improve outcomes for Māori.

Section 7AA, which has been in place since July 2019, requires decision-makers to consider the importance of a child's mana, culture and whakapapa.

The report showed in the 12 months to March 2020, 874 tamariki Māori entered, compared with 1220 in 2019 - the lowest figure since 2004.

For the total number of tamariki in care to reduce however, exits need to be higher than entries. Although care entries decreased quite sharply, the number of tamariki Māori leaving care was also few.

In a foreword to the report, Moss wrote: "I know that we are at the beginning of this journey, one that is long and will not be without its challenges. However, I am confident in our people and in our partners, I am confident that one day soon we will be able to stand next to our partners and say that together we've made a difference for tamariki Māori, their whānau, hapū and iwi".

The report also showed an increase of $46 million being spent with iwi and Māori providers.

Section 7AA aimed to improve outcomes for tamariki and rangatahi Māori by:

  • Ensuring policies and practices have the objective of reducing disparities for tamariki and rangatahi Māori
  • Ensuring policies, practices and services have regard to mana tamaiti (tamariki), whakapapa and whanaungatanga
  • Developing strategic partnerships with iwi and Māori organisations.

Oranga Tamariki deputy chief executive Hoani Lambert told Midday Report there has been a continued drop this year.

"But an even more intensive drop in the number of Māori children coming into care, we've almost halved from when Oranga Tamariki first started, the number of Māori children coming into care, importantly the disparity between Māori and non-Māori has also decreased from 69 percent down to 59 percent."

He said the organisation has been working with whānau earlier to ensure that their children do not need to come into care, as well as investing more with non-governmental organisations, including Māori and iwi organisations, to deliver more support before children need to come into care.

Lambert said there had also been a significant reduction in the number of Māori babies coming into care.

There has also been a reduction in the number of orders under Section 78, which is an interim custody order or urgent action by the police, with 307 taken in the nine months to 31 March and is almost half the number executed in the previous financial year, Lambert said.

Lambert said the funding that Oranga Tamariki gives to Māori and iwi organisations to do this type of work is set to increase.

He said more work was needed to understand the main drivers of some of the improved outcomes. Some indicators included earlier intervention with whānau; increased investment with NGOs, Māori and iwi to deliver more support before children need to come into care; and changes in practice.

The report shows that, of the total spend on the Ministry's commissioning of services, Māori and iwi providers make up just under a quarter of that total sum - an increase of $46 million since the 2017/18 financial year - from $54m to 81m - with their contracts making up 28.4 percent of all commissioning services.

"As a proportion of 1.1 billion spend as an agency, $81m seems small, but in terms of the overall amount we have available for the commissioning of services 23.4 percent is probably a lot better than other government agencies - where you have heard the government recently talking about trying to get them up to 16 percent.

"Because that would represent the portion of Māori in the population, we recognise although we are doing well on that metric because of the number of Māori children and whānau we need to work with we need to get well above 16 percent and need to get that figure as high as possible".

Lambert said the funding that Oranga Tamariki gives to Māori and iwi organisations to do this type of work is set to increase - with announcements of new partnerships in the coming weeks.

"This year we'll be starting work in the early intervention space with iwi and Māori organisations including the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency."

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