Legislation paving the way for a Children and Young People’s Commission is a huge opportunity to improve outcomes for all tamariki mokopuna, Children’s Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers says.
The Oversight of the Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People’s Commission Bill was introduced into Parliament today. It transforms the current Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) into a new Children and Young People’s Commission, with broader advocacy functions.
The Bill also establishes a more comprehensive and greater-resourced monitor of the Oranga Tamariki System, to inherit and expand on the system monitoring currently undertaken by the OCC.
“We welcome the enhanced attention on the voices and rights of children and young people in the new Commission’s functions, particularly the specific focus on outcomes for tamariki mokopuna Māori,” Commissioner Eivers says.
“The inclusion in our mandate, for the first time, of rangatahi aged up to 25 who’ve been in the care of the State is an important acknowledgement of the State’s responsibility to these young people.
“The obligation on the Commission to help other agencies carry out engagements with tamariki mokopuna, to ensure their views are heard, will make public policy work better for them, and for everyone.
“And the ability of the new Commission to undertake systemic inquiries into issues concerning tamariki mokopuna is a powerful new tool that will enable the Commission to advocate for change in the wider public system.”
Earlier this year the Government announced the new Oranga Tamariki System monitor will be established outside the OCC as a departmental agency housed within the Education Review Office.
“This more expansive monitoring is welcomed. The safety and wellbeing of tamariki mokopuna in the state’s care requires much more attention,” Commissioner Eivers says.
“As the Bill progresses through Parliament, we also hope to see the independence of the monitor strengthened.
“The tragic stories being told to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the abuse of children in care, show how crucial it is to have a strong monitor independent enough to speak up for tamariki mokopuna”.
“At select committee we will be pushing for the Monitor to reflect a Te Tiriti partnership model. About 60 percent of tamariki mokopuna in the Oranga Tamariki system are Māori, so it is important that the opportunity is taken to make effective change that will benefit tamariki mokopuna in care and strengthen their whanau.” Commissioner Eivers says.
The Bill does not impact other work of the OCC/Commission, specifically the designation to inspect places of detention where young people are held under the United Nation’s Optional Protocol against Torture. This includes Oranga Tamariki residences and remand homes, and secure mental health units.