Kahu Aroha - change comes to the Ministry for Children Oranga Tamariki
Transcript of the speech given by Matthew Tukaki, Chairman of the Ministerial Advisory Board of Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Children.
Kia Ora, my name is Matthew Tukaki, Chairman of the Ministerial Advisory Board of Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Children. I’m here to talk about Kahu Aroha, the report that myself and my colleagues, Sir Mark Solomon, Dame Naida Glavish and Shannon Pakura have been working on and have now handed over to the Minster for Children, the Hon Kelvin Davis.
I want to start by saying a few words about you, the people, our whanau, our frontline workers, our Tamariki and mokopuna. Thank you for speaking with us, sharing your stories, your mahi, your challenges, your aspirations and hopes. To our young people in care who we met throughout this journey and to those with a lived experience who came forward to korero – thank you. In this report and the recommendations, we make, we see an opportunity, to draw a line in the sand of a journey that has been many decades in the making. It is an opportunity that should not be lost on us – as people, communities and as a nation.
I also want to acknowledge those who work in the field of care and protection across Aotearoa from our social workers and frontline staff to community workers, those involved in emergency housing, support services and much more.We know that you go about your mahi every single day facing great challenges, in high risk situations, at great risk and pressure. Thank you for all you do and thank you to your whanau for also being there to support you.
Also a few words about the people that I have had the privilege of working with, my fellow Ministerial Advisory Board members.
Sir Mark Solomon. He is as strong in stature as he is in integrity. He never let us take our eye off our true purpose, the reason we all took up this challenge – to help our kids, to protect our mokopuna and to look after our whānau.
Dame Naida Galvish. I have heard a story that came from the North about Naida. That when Ricky Whiu was introducing Naida and the Mayor to a crowd of people – he referred to the mayor as his worship and to Naida as her warship. In my experience – that description of Naida is bang on. Naida has spent her whole life striving, fighting, demanding better for Māori – and her contribution to our work was no different.
Shannon Pakura – no one, and I mean it when I say it, no one in Aotearoa has more drive, passion and utter commitment to the social work profession than Shannon. She brought every bit of that drive and commitment to our mahi. As the chair of our Board Shannon has provided me with unwavering support and kept me in line when I needed it most.
I think we would all agree that the work has been tough, but it has also been a privilege.
We were given the opportunity to look inside a system, to challenge it and ask the hard questions, to sit down with Māori, social workers, communities, Oranga Tamariki and those with lived experience and hear their stories, their concerns and more often than not, their heart-breaking experiences.
The privilege, that comes from having the opportunity to take all of those stories and experiences and put forward recommendations on how we can solve problems, address long standing issues and fix the system.
When the Minister asked us to take up this challenge, to provide him with independent advice on the state of Oranga Tamariki, I think it is fair to say we all were apprehensive. We all had had our own experiences with Oranga Tamariki – some of us had been vocal critics of its people and processes, so stepping inside the tent was a big call. But we knew if we were true to the kaupapa, if we really wanted to see the system change – we needed to get involved.
So we did.
The Minister asked us to provide assurance and advice to him on three key areas:
relationships with families, whānau, hapū, iwi, and Māori; professional social work practices and organisational culture.
After holding more than 70 hui; with service providers, hapū, iwi, communities, heads of government agencies and statutory organisations. After visiting over 20 Oranga Tamariki site offices and speaking to more than 750 staff including social workers. Considering a large number of documents and reports going back well before the establishment of Oranga Tamariki and reviewing the current organisation’s strategies, plans, financial statements, workforce, operations, and human resource policies.
Minister, we, your independent advisors, are unable to stand here today and provide a high level of assurance to you.
What we can offer, is a pathway forward for Oranga Tamariki. Recommendations for change.
Our hope is that, with these changes underway, we will be able to provide you with higher levels of assurance before our term expires.
Minister, together and alongside the leadership of Oranga Tamariki – we need to be relentless in our demand for change.
Our report makes three overarching recommendations, These are:
1) In order to lead prevention of harm to tamariki and their whānau, collective Māori and community responsibility and authority must be strengthened and restored
The Crown’s role is to support this kaupapa. There is currently no coordinated strategy for how Oranga Tamariki partners with Māori and communities to enable this shift to prevention. A strategy to address this is urgently required.
Over the coming three months, we recommend that Oranga Tamariki undertakes a programme of engagement with Māori collectives and communities, to understand what their ideas for the change they want to lead are and what resourcing and support they need to achieve it. We offer our support for this process.
Under this overarching first recommendation we stress that:
a) adequate resources and authority must be shared equitably with Māori
b) many of the services and support for tamariki and their whānau currently delivered by Oranga Tamariki can, over time, be provided by Māori and community groups
c) the primary role for Oranga Tamariki social workers can then be to respond to emergency situations and navigate tamariki and whānau to immediate help in order to secure their safety and protection.
Moreover, the evidence is clear that the needs of tamariki Māori and whānau are not well served by the current system. Coming into contact with the current care and protection system, even if only briefly, can reinforce and cause further damage to already vulnerable and hurt tamariki and their whānau. The primary solution is to prevent the need for so many tamariki and whānau to come to state attention, and for those that do, that the time they are engaged with the system is as short as possible, while their whānau are supported to heal so that they can safely take back the care of their tamariki. Investment must be geared towards that prevention focus and to the system recalibration needed to enable it.
We believe Oranga Tamariki needs ongoing help and guidance to support its shift to providing the most effective state care and protection system possible, but are firmly of the view that Oranga Tamariki is not the ultimate point. The ultimate point must be to prevent harm from occurring in the first place; we think it is obvious that Māori collectives and communities are best-placed to lead this work.
Our second over arching recommendations:
2) In order to work collaboratively with Māori, community organisations and other government agencies, the purpose of Oranga Tamariki must be clarified. This includes clarifying who Oranga Tamariki primarily exists to serve, what areas of service delivery and support are for Māori and community to lead, and where the responsibility of other government agencies must be to support improved outcomes for tamariki and their whānau.
Under this overarching recommendation, we include some specific recommendations targeted at reinforcing the social work focus of Oranga Tamariki:
a) That the Office of the Chief Social Worker should be restored as a central role within Oranga Tamariki, with enhanced influence across the agency. This is needed to address the de-professionalisation of Oranga Tamariki’s workforce away from social work.
b) That induction, training, continuing professional development, and supervision, including training and support for supervisors and practice leaders, should be prioritised.
c) That a workforce development plan that rebuilds the mana and professionalisation of Oranga Tamariki social workers, and grows the broader supporting social sector workforce inside and outside Oranga Tamariki, be developed as a priority.
d) That national office and regional sites should be better aligned in purpose and operational activities.
We make these recommendations as it is clear to us that Oranga Tamariki social workers are under significant pressure. This is compounded by a lack of strong professional leadership and development; absence of consistent and timely induction across the organisation; and weak professional structures and systems. The social work voice within Oranga Tamariki needs strengthening as professional practice views, opinions, and experience are missing at many levels within the organisation, including at its leadership group.
Oranga Tamariki lacks strategic direction and is not visionary. It is self-centred and constantly looks to itself for answers. Its current systems are weak, disconnected and unfit for the population of tamariki it serves, and there is no strategy to partner with Māori and the community. It is an agency that is vulnerable to being blown off course by the headwinds it inevitably encounters over time. We also, however, want to acknowledge that Oranga Tamariki’s work is hard. Social workers are expected to manage ambiguity, uncertainty, and to make judgements that no other agency or professional is called upon to make, within a system that requires them to constantly reassess priorities.
We observe also that Oranga Tamariki social workers are isolated and need other agencies to work with them more proactively, in order to address the risk of harm to tamariki and their whānau. To help relieve these pressures, we recommend that, in addition to recentering itself around professional social work, a workforce development plan is needed. This should recognise the core role of Oranga Tamariki social workers, and grow the broader supporting social work sector workforce inside and outside Oranga Tamariki. This should be developed and progressed as a priority.
Our final recommendations:
3) A National Oranga Tamariki Governance Board should be established to oversee the diversity and depth of changes needed to guide and support Oranga Tamariki through the challenges they will inevitably face over time. This is necessary so that investment is sustained and focused on achieving improved outcomes for tamariki and their whānau, with wider benefits for communities and the nation. The Governance Board will have responsibility for guiding Oranga Tamariki to devolve authority and resources to Māori collectives and community groups. It should ensure they are supported to lead prevention and the other programmes and services currently provided by Oranga Tamariki that communities are best placed to provide for tamariki and their whānau.
Within this third overarching recommendation, it is necessary to clarify the responsibilities of the state system for tamariki and their whānau – not just solely those of Oranga Tamariki. Therefore, we further recommend that the Oranga Tamariki Governance Board has the mandate, capacity, and capability to ensure collective government accountability for improved outcomes for tamariki, their whānau, and the wider community. This will require a shared outcomes framework to be developed. The Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy already offers the authorising environment to build this within, providing a platform to immediately begin to leverage systems change.
Our recommendations are intended to complement and reinforce one another. In doing so, we want their impact to include strengthening the ‘village’ that tamariki need, and strengthening Oranga Tamariki to be a trusted doorway to the support and services that can assist whānau, while drawing together the broad range of relevant government support when that is needed.
To achieve the scale of change required to ensure positive and sustained progress, there must be a collective commitment to navigating the path and staying the course.
Oranga Tamariki remains necessary; accordingly, transformation within Oranga Tamariki is equally necessary. Oranga Tamariki’s core function, its processes, and its place in the sector requires significant adjustment and alignment so that it is fit for purpose for the communities and the whānau it serves.
We have hope that this report can set a new direction for Oranga Tamariki. It is our start to finally get things right for our kids, the tamariki that need us to do our job.
We must continue to remember that if we don’t change the system, if we don’t change Oranga Tamariki then we are failing our most vulnerable children. We are the adults WHO CREATED THIS MESS.
Those kids have done nothing wrong. They are just kids. Who want to be loved, who want to feel protected and safe – who deserve to be happy.
They depend on us. We cannot let them down.
One final thank you to our team at the Board Secretariat and also to Sir Wira Gardiner who I am sure is watching today. Thank you team and Wira for your service.
Me mahi tahi tātou mo te oranga o te katoa.
Tena koutou katoa.