Ma­jor over­haul starts to­day

Re­form of the coun­try’s care sys­tem for vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren will take four to five years, says

The Dominion Post - - Opinion -

It’s been nearly a year since I an­nounced the Gov­ern­ment would un­der­take a com­plete over­haul of our care and pro­tec­tion sys­tem. The in­de­pen­dent ex­pert panel’s re­port made it very clear that the sys­tem sup­posed to pro­tect our most vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren and young peo­ple was bro­ken.

The young peo­ple on my Youth Ad­vi­sory Panel have told me time and time again that more than any­thing they want a lov­ing, sta­ble place to call home.

To­day we’re of­fi­cially launch­ing the new Min­istry for Vul­ner­a­ble Chil­dren, Oranga Ta­mariki.

The Min­istry for Vul­ner­a­ble Chil­dren, Oranga Ta­mariki is a sin­gle point of ac­count­abil­ity for chil­dren at risk and will fo­cus on five core ser­vices pre­ven­tion, in­ten­sive in­ter­ven­tion, care sup­port, youth jus­tice and sup­port to tran­si­tion into adult­hood.

We’ve al­ready made a num­ber of changes to sup­port the new Min­istry. Young peo­ple can now re­main in care and, even if not in care, re­ceive sig­nif­i­cant sup­port right up un­til their 18th birth­day.

Chil­dren and young peo­ple will also have a say in de­ci­sions made about them and will have ac­cess to a new in­de­pen­dent ad­vo­cacy ser­vice called VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai.

A sec­ond set of leg­isla­tive re­forms is also cur­rently be­fore Par­lia­ment. This leg­is­la­tion is vi­tal as it un­apolo­get­i­cally places our chil­dren and young peo­ple at the heart of ev­ery­thing we do.

The changes we’re propos­ing will en­sure chil­dren and young peo­ple are placed with lov­ing fam­i­lies – prefer­ably their own – at the ear­li­est op­por­tu­nity and that these place­ment de­ci­sions take into ac­count their safety, best in­ter­ests and views.

All this marks the start of a shift away from a sys­tem fo­cused on just man­ag­ing a cri­sis to one which pro­vides early sup­port to help keep fam­i­lies to­gether. It’s a ma­jor step in what will be a four to five year trans­for­ma­tion of how we care for and pro­tect our most vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren and fam­i­lies.

As I’ve said from day one, we’ve had too many re­struc­tures, knee jerk changes and at­tempts at tin­ker­ing around the edges. If we’re go­ing to get this right – and we have to – we can­not rush it and we can­not do it alone.

It’s go­ing to take all of us – Gov­ern­ment, non-gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions, iwi, care­givers, com­mu­ni­ties, fam­i­lies and young peo­ple to make this over­haul work.

We have to put our most vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren and young peo­ple at the heart of ev­ery­thing we do. And we have to do ev­ery­thing we can to give them a safe, sta­ble and lov­ing home so they can live happy, suc­cess­ful lives. It’s what they’ve asked for, and it’s the very least they de­serve.

New leg­is­la­tion un­apolo­get­i­cally places our chil­dren and young peo­ple at the heart of ev­ery­thing we do.

Anne Tol­ley is the So­cial Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter.

PHOTO: MATT DUNCAN/FAIRFAX NZ

Early re­forms have seen young peo­ple re­ceive state sup­port up to their 18th birth­day.

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