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March 2020 Newsletter: An Update from the Office of the Children's Commissioner in light of COVID-19.
27 March 2020
Kia ora koutou,
COVID-19 is changing everything about life and work as we know it. Like all of you, we at the OCC are focused on how best to continue our work whilst supporting our families and employees in the face of this unfolding crisis. Our thoughts are with you, your whānau and all those who are affected. This will be a stressful time for all of us. In such times it is more important than ever that we prioritise the interests of our children. We must ensure that home is the safest place for them and we should act with calm and balance. We need to model great behaviour and attitudes for all our children.
Mā te Manaakitanga tātau e kōkiri whakamua - we will get through this together.
Judge Andrew Becroft
A message from our Chief Māori Advisor
Kia ora whānau, ngā mihi. Hi there, greetings from us all.
I tenei wā taumaha me whai atu tātou ngā mea ki te whakamama te wā! At this time of uncertainty, let’s all find ways to lighten our spirits. Ki ngā mokopuna he wā tau tenei pea.
Let’s try and ensure that children can look back on this as a chill time. Without the rush, the busyness, the panic to go places and be places at certain times. In two weeks time the school holidays would normally have been scheduled. How might you and your children plan the lockdown holiday of a lifetime?
Dr Kathie Irwin
Ngāti Porou, Rakaipaaka, Ngāti Kahungunu
Chief Māori Advisor
What are we doing?
Our office is working remotely so that we continue to support and advocate for the best interests of all children.
Development, Monitoring and Investigations of Oranga Tamariki team
The immediate priority for our Development, Monitoring and Investigations of Oranga Tamariki team is the safety, rights and wellbeing of children and young people currently living in Oranga Tamariki’s eight secure residences. We are focused on adapting our monitoring of these residences under our United National OPCAT mandate so we can work effectively.
Working in consultation with Oranga Tamariki, we will be engaging with children and young people who are currently living in these residences as soon as we can, using our technology in whatever flexible ways work best for them. We want to find out what forms of virtual monitoring work best from the perspective of children and young people and we will keep refining our approach, as we learn from their feedback and advice.
One area of focus for us in this extraordinary time is children and young people’s regular contact with their family, whānau and people closest to them. Given that their face to face contacts can’t take place in the usual way and the activities many may have previously enjoyed outside the residence environment now have to stop, we want to support Oranga Tamariki to make sure these needs are met in accessible ways.
Strategy, Rights and Advice team
The Strategy, Rights and Advice team is leading a cross-office response to understand the short, medium and long-term impacts of the pandemic on children and young people. In the short term that may look like sharing best information and advice from a range of sources, and at the same time we are preparing to advocate for the needs of children and young people over the medium and long-term.
Our work on how to be child-centred in decision-making has never been so important, as in these challenging times, considering impacts on child wellbeing is essential. More guidance is available on our website here.
What can you do for your children?
It can be hard to know how to talk to children about what's going on with COVID-19. Here are some resources that are written specifically with children and young people in mind about how to cope and how to help in the coming days.
Helping kids with anxiety and to stay calm amidst COVID-19: https://www.theparentingplace.com/health-wellness/sense-and-sensitivity-helping-kids-stay-calm-amidst-covid-19/
COVID-19 and kids: How to talk to children about the coronavirus by Siouxsie Wiles: https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/03-03-2020/covid-19-and-kids-how-to-talk-to-children-about-the-coronavirus/
Nanogirl and Moe from 'The Moe Show' talking about the national lockdown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EY35E9huYvI
For the latest information and updates on the Government’s response, see the official COVID-19 website here.