The Children’s Commissioner will cover the following topics on behalf of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.
Overview of the Functions of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner
- The Children’s Commissioner has a statutory role as the independent monitor of policies and practices provided under the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.
- We are also a designated National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) responsible for monitoring New Zealand’s compliance with the United Nations (UN) Convention against Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in relation to Oranga Tamariki residences. This gives the Commissioner for Children the mandate to monitor all care and protection and youth justice residences as well as other places of child and youth detention across Aotearoa New Zealand.
- As the independent monitor of Oranga Tamariki since 1989, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner could also be subject to review for inadequate discharge of the monitoring function within the scope of the Royal Commission inquiry.
The Role of an Effective Independent Monitor
- Oranga Tamariki provides services to approximately 30,000 children and young people daily. Approximately 6,400 are currently in the care or custody of Oranga Tamariki.
- The Government announced changes to the oversight of the State care system, including the roles of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and the Ombudsman, in April this year. The role and functions of the future Independent Monitor (which may or may not remain within the Office of the Children’s Commissioner) are currently being designed by Government.
- Current resourcing requires the Office of the Children’s Commissioner to be very selective about what we monitor and how. The independent monitor, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, has never been resourced to fully discharge its monitoring functions. An effective independent monitor is necessary to help prevent, address and eliminate abuse of children and young people in State care.
There is an Obligation to Get It Right This Time
- A number of previous reports and inquiries have investigated the abuse of children in State care and made recommendations to safeguard children now and into the future. Previous reports include a particular focus on Māori children in Puao-Te-Ata-Tu in 1988, and disabled children and adults in a Human Rights Commission Report in 2017.
- The Children, Young Persons, and their Families Act 1989 had the potential to achieve the vision outlined in Puao-Te-Ata-Tu. This vision has still not been realised.
- Section 7AA was introduced to the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 on 1 July 2019. There is now a statutory obligation that makes explicit what has always been implicit, that the Crown honour its Te Tiriti obligations for children in State care.
A Child-Centred Complaints Mechanism is Necessary in the Current System
- Complaints mechanisms that children and young people in care trust and can readily access need to be developed as soon as possible.
- It should be noted that due to the coercive nature of State care any complaints mechanism can never be truly accessible for children and young people.
The Scope of the Royal Commission Should be Interpreted Broadly to Extend to Today
- Recent figures released by Oranga Tamariki show a continuing picture of abuse of children and young people in State care. The Royal Commission needs to use its discretion to inquire into both historical and current abuse of children and young people in State care.
Recommendations from this inquiry should be forward-focused to ensure the protection from abuse of children and young people now and into the future.
Presentation starts at 11:45
Presentation starts at 01:14:30