Doing more for our kids
Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, setting up an independent connection and advocacy service for children and young people in state care, and raising the age of care and protection to 21, with transitional support up to 25.
This is progress that hasn’t escaped the attention of the United Nations, which has been archly and justifiably critical of our failures to live up to our signed-up commitments for children’s rights.
Now comes the call, from the UN monitoring group led by NZ’s Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft, for the new Government to improve our act further.
It would be easy to look at the three areas of next-up need identified by the monitoring group and see them as proud declarations of the bleeding obvious. First, making sure children’s rights and needs are the centre of policy and legislative reform. Surely we should already be well downstream of that level of thinking and planning, right?
Second, when we’re addressing how to correct failures, being sure to identify who would do the work, when it would happen and how it would be monitored. How on earth could such a reminder still be necessary? Third, implementing the UN Children’s Convention not only with properly allocated responsibilities and resources, but with coordination across government and ensuring children and young people’s views are taken into account.
Most of which, let’s face it, sounds like they’re saying that the new Vulnerable Children ministry should act like a ministry for vulnerable children.
Really, though, Becroft’s group is essentially talking about stamina and follow-through. We’ve done some good groundwork for progress; but that’s all it is.
It’s saying that if we had our act together and were truly factoring children and young people into the Government planning that affects them – and what doesn’t? – and if we really were taking the trouble to treat them as a legitimate voice for feedback before decisions are made, then we’d be serving them and our whole society much better than what we’ve been doing, which has been pressing on with our own big, impressive, grownup agendas, then noticing the regrettable impact on our young, then working piecemeal to address these downstream problems we’ve just created for them.