Jacinda Ardern and Tracey Martin defend their decision not to view a video of a child uplift, as sweeping changes to Oranga Tamariki come into force.
View here: the video they wouldn’t watch.
The Prime Minister has defended her decision not to watch Newsroom’s video of a child uplift, saying she had previously seen videos of uplifts and therefore “had a sense of what’s likely to be contained in the video”.
Children’s Minister Tracey Martin said she didn’t want to give the video another click.
“I’d been made very aware of what the content of the video was, I was also aware there was 36 hours cut down to 45 minutes so I had more background than someone might have seen in a 45 minute video,” she said.
The remarks came in the wake of a Newsroom video showing the process of a child uplift, which has sparked four inquiries into Oranga Tamariki and the process by which it uplifts children.
Martin appeared disappointed the decision had been made to go to the media.
But she couldn’t answer whether the inquiries would have been launched had the footage not been released by the media, as opposed to being sent to herself or the watchdog’s like the Ombudsman.
“I’m saying I would have preferred there were other options as opposed to exposing everyone who was in that room to the harm that was happening downstream,” Martin said.
Martin and Ardern also commented on results of a review of 62 cases that involved taking babies into state care between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018, which was made public last week.
Ardern said the cases reviewed “really do show that there is need for that early and intensive intervention”.
The report noted a wide range of reasons for taking children into care. The most common were substance abuse by the parent or their partner, the threat of violence from the mother’s partner and the risk of medical neglect and “parental difficulties in being able to recognise and respond to the needs of a newborn”.
The review noted that while the number of children taken into state care had decreased over the past decade, this had largely been due to a decrease in non-Maori children entering care, with the number of Maori remaining relatively stable. However this number has also been decreasing in recent years, with numbers of Maori children taken into state care at the lowest level since 2015/16.
The review found an increase in the use of what are known as “Section 78 orders”, known as “without notice” orders to uplift children and take them into state care. Children under one year old make up a third of cases uploaded under Section 78.
These are now the most common cause of uplifts, responsible for just under 1,200 cases in 2017/18.
The report said the increase was due to “an overall increase in the level of vulnerability and risk in the wider community”.
Ardern also responded to criticism of the Oranga Tamariki complaints process. A Cabinet Paper from March noted the current system suffered from “a lack of resourcing, which has meant that there is currently no significant oversight of complaints made by children, young people or those who care for them”.
Ardern said many of the problems had come from the fact the government was building the complaints process from scratch.
“Ultimately the complaints system hasn’t had the level of independence that it could and should have,” Ardern said.
Under Oranga Tamariki’s “new operating mode”, which took effect from Monday, the Children’s Commissioner will monitor the agency’s compliance with care standards, taking over from the Ministry of Social Development. This will only come into effect once new legislation is passed.
The Ombudsman will also carry out investigations into any complaints that arise.
Ardern and Martin’s remarks were made as sweeping changes to Oranga Tamariki came into effect.
The changes include a new “intensive intervention service,” which is designed to keep children safe at home, as well as additional funding for iwi providers and NGOs and a system that is designed to help people transition from care and the youth justice system as they enter adulthood.
The changes also introduce National Care Standards for children in state care. Previously there had been no national, explicit standards for what was expected and required of caregivers for children in state care.
Most 17-year-olds will also be included in the youth justice system, rather than the adult system.