We advocate for the interests, rights and wellbeing of children and young people

Annual Report 2017

Corporate documents

Annual reports

24 November 2017

The annual summary of activity and achievements for the Office of the Children's Commissioner for the financial year 2016 -2017.

Introduction from the Children’s Commissioner

Ko te ahurei o te tamaiti arahia ō tātou mahi - Let the uniqueness of the child guide our work

Tēnā koutou katoa, 

When I took up this role in July 2016, I believed, at least in the general sense, that nurturing our children and young people was important for the future of this country. After one year in the role, I am absolutely convinced that nothing is more important.

There are 1.12 million children in Aotearoa New Zealand, almost 25% of our population. They are without a vote and often without a voice or influence. Of those, 70% do really well, both academically and in overall wellbeing; 20% do less well; and 10% are really struggling with issues ranging from abuse and neglect, material deprivation and poor health and educational engagement.

My statutory remit is very wide. However, what it all comes back to is improving the well-being of all children in New Zealand. In this Office, we put children at the centre, and ask: how can we make a difference to their lives? And what do they tell us are the most important issues that they face? In particular, how can we help improve the lower measures of child well-being for our indigenous Māori children relative to New Zealand European children? Improving outcomes for tamariki Māori remains one of our country’s biggest challenges.

This report documents some real progress for children on several fronts:

  • 17-year-olds are now included in the youth justice system, following overseas practice. This will offer a much better opportunity for rehabilitation than the adult system and is based on a better understanding of the developmental stages of young people;
  • More agencies are aware of children’s right to have a say in matters that affect them and are seeking out and genuinely listening to their views;
  • Oranga Tamariki has been established and we are heavily involved in advising the best way to design and deliver services for children and young people who come into contact with the care and protection and youth justice systems. This is the opportunity of our collective lifetimes to build a truly world-leading state intervention system for children.

We are also seeing a growing awareness among agencies of the rights and entitlements of children under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC). New Zealand has signed up to this Convention, but we still have a way to go to put the principles into practice. In October 2016, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child made 52 challenging and important recommendations in areas where New Zealand could improve. These are part of our work programme, with particular emphasis on the Committee’s urgent recommendations. 

Too many of our country’s children face significant challenges and disadvantage. Repeating all the negative statistics in a report such as this is unnecessary, but a few examples of the issues that need to be addressed will suffice:

  • New Zealand has the highest rate of youth suicide in the western world, and also a drastically higher rate for Māori aged 15-24 years old (48 per 100,000 in 2012) as opposed to non-Māori (16.9 per 100,000);
  • low-decile schools have less ability to provide special assessment conditions, meaning that how well children do at school is influenced both by socio-economic factors and ethnicity;
  • we understand at least 70% of young people remanded in adult police cells are Maori; and
  • 85,000 children experience significant material disadvantage, meaning that they and their families/whānau lack 9 or more items considered essential for basic living.

A pressing need is the development of an independent and fully resourced complaints system in respect of the services provided by Oranga Tamariki, to make sure that the sad history of abuse in state care is not repeated.  We can never tolerate the levels of historic abuse of our children that continue to emerge.

We have set five priorities for the Office this year, which are available on our website. In addition to those issues already mentioned, we have focused on ensuring that all our children are actively and meaningfully engaged and retained in mainstream education.

This role is a great opportunity and privilege. I feel a great responsibility to perform it to the best of our collective abilities in this Office. Our staff, comprising just over 17 full-time equivalents, continues to do an outstanding job, especially given the scale of the work. We have a proud 27-year history of advocating for children and improving conditions for children in care.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the platform built, and the legacy left, by the six Commissioners before me. There is now an opportunity, and indeed the necessity, to further strengthen the Office to advance the interests of all New Zealand children and young people.

I am reassured by the level of commitment by parents, caregivers, and government and non-government and community organisations to do the best that we can for our children. I am sure that with our collective effort and will, we can make sure that all New Zealand children can flourish and thrive.

Ngā mihi,

Judge Andrew Becroft, Children’s Commissioner

Te Kaikomihana mō ngā Tamariki


Annual Report 2017 Final cover