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Decision to close residences strongly welcomed

Media releases

1 July 2021

The Children’s Commissioner and Assistant Māori Commissioner are welcoming, and relieved by, the decision of Oranga Tamariki to commit to the phased closure of Care and Protection institutional residences.

“This could not come quickly enough. At long last this signals the ditching of an old-fashioned model that, along with orphanages and borstals has no place in the 21st century,” Commissioner Becroft says.

“Our office, including skilled staff who regularly monitor these places and talk with mokopuna there, are overjoyed that their repeated calls for action have finally been heard.

“The concerns raised in the newsroom video are not new and are well-known to both us and to Oranga Tamariki.

“As the statutory monitor of Oranga Tamariki we frequently hear from children about excessive force, including overzealous restraint that has led to cuts, scratches, carpet burns and bruising.

“We have raised these concerns repeatedly in our reports to Oranga Tamariki, including our strong recommendation since 2017 that Care and Protection residences be closed.

“While we strongly welcome the actions announced today, we can’t help feel it is very sad for tamariki in the care of the state that it has taken this long to commit to change,” Commissioner Becroft says.

Assistant Māori Commissioner Glenis Philip-Barbara says it’s the wellbeing of these mokopuna that we all now should be focusing on.

“At time of chaos like this, the utmost care needs to be taken to ensure the wellbeing of mokopuna already living in residences, and their whānau, is kept paramount.

“This is not a time for worrying about cost, it’s a time to spend everything necessary to keep them safe and with whānau.

“Looking to the future, we need to listen to what mokopuna and whānau say they want -loving care in the community with people they trust, close to home.”

Commissioner Becroft said the Office has asked a number of questions of Oranga Tamariki about today’s events, including where the children affected by the immediate closure will be placed, and will require immediate wraparound services for them and their whānau.

We have also requested additional specific information from Oranga tamariki relating to restraints and other serious incidents, and grievances relating to all residences. We will also be closely monitoring what supports are in place for affected tamariki and their whānau.

“It’s important to recognise that there are some staff who work in these places who are committed to their work and passionate about bringing about change in the lives of young people.

The time has come, however, for a new way, a new vision and at its centre it must be by Māori for Māori approaches with shared governance and leadership with hapū, iwi and Māori NGOs,” Commissioner Becroft says.

Ms Philip-Barbara adds “That will require the Government to transfer power and resources to where it’s needed for mokopuna to ensure they receive the care and support they need, from their whānau and community.”