Experiences of Care in Aotearoa is an annual check on compliance with the National Care Standards Regulations by agencies with custody and care responsibilities – Oranga Tamariki, Open Home Foundation and Barnardos. Oranga Tamariki had custody of almost 99 percent of the 6,398 children in care during the 2021/2022 reporting period.
The National Care Standards (NCS) Regulations came into effect in 2019, and set out the minimum standard of care that must be provided when the state has custody of a child.
Aroturuki Tamariki Executive Director Arran Jones says this report was the first opportunity to see whether agencies have done what they said they’d do, and most importantly, whether the quality of care has improved since the inaugural Experiences of Care in Aotearoa 2020/2021.
“Oranga Tamariki is still not meeting the minimum standards for tamariki in care. While it has made progress on its work programme, we are yet to see meaningful improvements in its data, or in the experiences of tamariki and others we heard from,” Mr Jones said.
Key findings include:
In 2021/2022, 65 percent of children in care were visited by their social worker in accordance with their assessment or plan.
“Social workers need support to spend time with tamariki and rangatahi in care. We heard a range of reasons why this wasn’t happening including workload, staff turnover, availability of resources and leadership. Spending time with tamariki and building stronger relationships will help address the needs of children, their caregivers and whānau, and, importantly, keep children safe,” Mr Jones said.
Only 53 percent of tamariki and rangatahi are registered with a GP or medical practice, a decrease from 60 percent in 2020/2021.
“We were unable to establish if the health and education needs of tamariki and rangatahi in care are being met. For example, Oranga Tamariki couldn’t tell us whether tamariki and rangatahi in its care have attended annual medical and dental checks, or how many are impacted by mental health and/or addiction, or whether they are attending school. If tamariki and rangatahi aren’t having regular health checks, then health needs are more likely to be undiagnosed and resources not made available,” Mr Jones said.
From a sample of 756 files, only 21 tamariki or rangatahi received substance and choices screens, 18 received suicide risk screens and 25 received wellbeing consultations. The report also found availability and access to mental health services continues to be a barrier for tamariki and rangatahi in care.
“Given concerns raised about the psychological health of tamariki and rangatahi, the level of screening by Oranga Tamariki of children in care for substance abuse, psychological distress or risk of death by suicide appears low. Oranga Tamariki was not able to provide the number of tamariki and rangatahi that needed to be assessed. Without this information there is no way of understanding whether tamariki received the assessments they needed,” Mr Jones said.
Caregiver assessments are required before tamariki are placed in their care. While police vetting and identity checks were completed in almost all cases, 32 percent of tamariki were placed before all parts of the caregiver assessment were completed, or before the caregiver was provisionally approved. Once a child is placed, caregiver approval is required to be reviewed every two years, or when there is a change in circumstances or investigation. A sample shows that only 26 percent of reviews were completed on time, 50 percent were completed late and 25 percent were not yet completed.
“Considering the impact that a change in care placement may have on tamariki and rangatahi, it is critical that Oranga Tamariki has assurance in all cases that the home they are going to is safe and suitable for every child, and that they can report on every child in care,” Mr Jones said.
While over 70 percent of caregiver support plans captured the help needed, Oranga Tamariki data also shows that in only 48 percent of cases reviewed, caregiver social workers were carrying out planned actions to meet the caregivers’ needs.
“There has been some improvement in support for caregivers but we continue to hear about the need for respite care, better information sharing about tamariki and rangatahi in their care and more frequent visits from social workers.”
A continued theme is that not enough collaboration and communication occurs between government agencies.
“Quality care for tamariki and rangatahi requires the help of other agencies, such as health and education. With cross-agency commitment to the Oranga Tamariki Action Plan, we will be looking for a positive impact on what occurs on the ground, and if there is a corresponding change in what we hear in communities over the next year,” Mr Jones said.
This year Open Home Foundation was able to provide all of the data requested for all 79 tamariki in its custody.
“Following our 2020/2021 report, Open Home Foundation set out to report on all measures for all tamariki in its custody. This has enabled Open Home Foundation to identify areas for focus that will make a real difference to tamariki in care, such as ensuring social workers are visiting tamariki and caregivers within agreed timeframes.”
Information on 348 measures was requested from Oranga Tamariki on the 6,317 children in its custody during the year. Oranga Tamariki could provide data for only 181 measures. Of those 181, case file analysis (samples) was used for 110 measures.
“It remains difficult to measure and understand if Oranga Tamariki is making meaningful change in meeting its regulatory obligations to tamariki and rangatahi in its care.”
“To learn from past mistakes, it is crucial that Oranga Tamariki close these gaps in knowledge as quickly as possible. Oranga Tamariki need to self-monitor and collect data in a way that fulfils its regulatory obligations and commitments to tamariki and rangatahi, and their whānau, whose lives are impacted by being in care,” Mr Jones said.
Read the report
Questions about agency performance and their responses to our report should be directed to that agency. Read agency responses.
About the National Care Standards Regulations
The National Care Standards (NCS) Regulations were developed by Oranga Tamariki and informed by what tamariki and rangatahi with experience of the care system said they need – such as supporting them to express their views, keeping them connected to their family and whānau, giving them opportunities to participate in their culture and ensuring that their health and education needs are met.
The National Care Standards Regulations are available here: https://www.legislation.govt.nz/regulation/public/2018/0111/latest/LMS56030.html
About Aroturuki, the Independent Children’s Monitor
Aroturuki Tamariki, the Independent Children’s Monitor, was established in July 2019.
Our current role is to report annually on whether agencies with custody and care responsibilities are complying with the National Care Standards (NCS) Regulations and whether positive outcomes are being achieved for tamariki and rangatahi in care. We do this by looking at what the data shows and what people tell us they are experiencing.
From mid-2023, our role will be expanding as a result of the Oversight of the Oranga Tamariki System Act. The Act expands our scope to the whole of the Oranga Tamariki system. The Oranga Tamariki system includes work that is done to support whānau, reduce risk to tamariki and prevent them coming into the care system. This includes work done by government agencies such as Oranga Tamariki, Police, Health and Education.
We will also become an operationally independent departmental agency. As a departmental agency, the Monitor will be hosted the Education Review Office (ERO). Hosting means ERO will provide some back-office services (such as human resources, finance, payroll, security and IT) to the Monitor.