29 June 2021  Media Releases

Commissioner calls for child protection protocol to be activated following video

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner has asked Oranga Tamariki to activate the Child Protection Protocol (CPP) which includes calling in Police, following the publication of concerning videos of staff treatment of children in one of its care and protection “residences”.

Video captured at the “residence” appears to show staff doing headlocks on a child, pressing a child to the wall, twisting another’s arms behind his back and slamming children to the ground on several occasions.

“On the face of it, the videos show violent attacks on children, by those who are supposed to be caring for them," Childrens Commissioner Andrew Becroft says.

"These children are living in care and protection “residences” usually because they’ve experienced traumatic upbringings and there is often nowhere else for them to go. These are not youth justice facilities and children are not there for criminal offending.

“The behaviour on the video appears to be neither care nor protection; and it should shock every New Zealander to the core. There is a clear need for Oranga Tamariki to active the CPP and trigger an investigation of possible abuse.

“The Office is the current statutory monitor of Oranga Tamariki policy and practice - including its eight places of institutional secure detention (inaccurately termed ‘residences’).  We also evaluate these places under the UN’s Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, and report findings to the Government, and Oranga Tamariki. 

“In one of our recent reports, children told us that restraints by staff felt like manhandling, and that staff restrained children when they got angry. That is unacceptable and is a frequent refrain to the office.

“The treatment in the videos highlights the fundamental problem with care and protection residences, and the reason why the Office has repeatedly called for their closure, including in several formal reports.

“This is a flawed and outdated model, where children with traumatic backgrounds, are separated from other children, and then aggregated together in a residential environment staffed by often underqualified, people. History has shown they can have disastrous consequences.

“These children are some of the most fragile in Aotearoa. Their emotional and physical safety should be paramount in their care. That is much better provided in smaller, child centred homes, where they can be safety nurtured and cared for by expert staff who understand trauma informed care.

“That these kinds of assaults are still happening during the Royal Commission of Abuse in Care shows that abuse didn’t stop at the Commission’s year 2000 cut off point.

“This demonstrates why it is so important that the Commission has powers to investigate what has occurred in state care since 2000.

It also highlights how crucial it will be that the Independent Children’s Monitor – soon to be hosted by ERO -  is truly independent of Government and can stand up for children in the State’s care,” Commissioner Becroft says.