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March 14, 2017

Submission – Oranga Tamariki: Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Legislation Bill

Submission sent – Friday 3 March 2017


1. Acknowledgement

Poverty Action Waikato appreciates the opportunity to respond to the Oranga Tamariki: Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Legislation Bill.

 2. Background

There is a very pressing need to ensure that children and young persons throughout Aotearoa are cared for in appropriate ways that enable the best possible transition to adulthood and to full participation in whānau/families, communities and society in general.

Consideration of this Oranga Tamariki Bill sits in a wider social and political context that currently operates in ways that will act against the ideals and principles outlined in the Bill. For example, the low wages people are paid, the cost of housing, the paucity of employment opportunities for young people, the individual cost of tertiary training/education, along with the rise in cost of living people are experiencing means that there are large numbers of children and young people living in households where there simply isn’t enough income to meet the basic needs for a family to live simply and well.  These factors along with the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth have certainly increased the vulnerability of any person in lower income brackets.

One of the changes that Poverty Action Waikato has noticed in their research (see Neglect and Nurture Report, May 2016[1]) in the Waikato is the increased concern about scarcity of access to housing either through Housing New Zealand or Rental Agencies.  Insecure tenancies, where the average stay in a rental property is eleven months (Howden-Chapman, 2015[2]) and the costs associated were also concerning as they have consequences such as difficulties in maintaining social connectedness, whānau relationships and often for children disrupted attendance at school.

3. Submission points

This submission will highlight some of our concerns about the Oranga Tamariki – Children, Young Persons, and their Families Legislation Bill and the general direction of CYPF.  We note that there are inherent contradictions operating when the same organisation is required to offer care for and control over the lives of children and young people that come to their notice.

 

3.1 Extension of age for young people

We endorse the recommendation to have the age of a young person extended by one year and to have the State outline an increased degree of engagement with and responsibility for young people who have been in their care until the age 21.

 

3.2 Colonisation impacts and Te Tiriti o Waitangi

3.2.1 This legislation and the operation of the Department have a long history, largely as a part of a monoculturally driven system of government, which has had a detrimental impact on Māori peoples[3].

3.2.2 Will this latest iteration of a Bill serve Māori and thus all New Zealanders with equity and support the well-being of Whanau and communities by looking after the welfare of children and young people effectively?

3.2.3 We recognise the cultural richness and resourcefulness of he tangata, whānau, hapū and iwi.  We acknowledge there are situations where children and young people really are unsafe and not well cared for in their immediate/nuclear families and need to be supported by state care systems in conjunction with the whanau and communities they are connected to.   At times, however, the welfare or well-being of children appears to operate out of a system where children are taken from families as a form of punishment for transgressions rather than an assessment of the best interests of either the child or their family.

3.2.4 We are concerned about the ongoing reference to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. Principles do not feed or safeguard children in anyway and they do not by implication ensure that equitable relationships with Māori whānau, hapū and iwi as Crown partners are a requirement of any engagement in the process of caring for children.

3.2.5 We propose that in line with many of the recommendations in Puao-Te-Ata-Tu (1988[4]) that Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the three articles contained within this document be referred to in the Bill, rather than the ‘principles’.  In particular, the third article of Te Tiriti (the Treaty of Waitangi) which explicitly states: that the Natives of New Zealand (Māori) are extended Royal Protection along with the “Rights and Privileges of British subjects”.

3.2.6 In practice the Crown as the other party to Te Tiriti o Waitangi has systematically failed to deliver to Māori equitable and culturally appropriate rights and privileges since 1840.

3.2.7 We are concerned that the changes being proposed in the Bill that will remove a requirement to prioritise the placement of tamariki Māori within their own whānau will not help tamariki Māori to maintain connections with their whakapapa.

3.2.8 Further this proposed change will potentially limit the role of staff to explore the wider whanau/family relationships that could potentially support and benefit a child or children to remain within a whanau/family network.  Building and maintaining whanau connections with children were highlighted in Puao-Te Ata-Tu and reinforced in every report since that time so that any tamariki in state care have placements prioritised within their own whānau first, and failing that within their hapū or iwi, and not severed from their whakapapa and tikanga.

 

3.3 Social Investment Approach

3.3.1 We are concerned that the Social Investment approach currently being adopted is not based on a substantial evidence base that offers an analysis of the effectiveness or otherwise of this approach.

3.3.2 From a community perspective it seems that the focus of the social investment approach will mean that the areas of contracted support that are more likely to show some immediate success will be preferred to receive funding as they will be deemed to meet outcomes criteria.   He tanagta/people, whānau/families, communities, hapū and iwi who have far more complex and at times intergenerational situations of deprivation and need will continue to struggle on the margins of society as they require support and services across agencies.  This is the situation we are currently witnessing with the social investment approach to housing where people are experiencing issues of availability of and access to affordable housing with assured tenancy arrangements over time. The safety net of state housing provision that has been available for past generations is being systematically withdrawn.

 

3.4 Poverty and Inequality    

3.4.1 A recent UN report has documented our failure in Aotearoa/New Zealand to care for those most disadvantaged in our communities and the need for a systematic plan to alleviate poverty. [5]Addressing inequity in our country is an essential part of preventing young people coming to the attention of government services.

3.4.2 We agree that there needs to be a radical and significant change in the way children, young people are supported and are kept safe. This includes supporting whānau/families and communities to overcome generational poverty and neglect so that they can provide safe places for children be raised and nurtured.

 

4. Conclusion

Poverty Action Waikato supports the resourcing of people and communities so that children and young people live, learn, and grow well within their whanau/family and community environments in ways that strengthen their cultural learning and connections.

Dr Rose Black

Poverty Action Waikato

[1] Casey-Cox, A. & Black, R.  (2016). Neglect and Nurture: Window on Waikato Poverty Report 6 Kirikiriroa Hamilton, NZ: Poverty Action Waikato. www.povertyactionwaikato.org

[2] Howden-Chapman, Philippa. (2015). Home Truths: Confronting New Zealand’s Housing Crisis. Wellington, NZ” BWB Texts

[3] Ministerial Advisory Committee on a Māori Perspective for the Department of Social Welfare. (1988). Puoa-Te-Ata-Tu (day break). Wellington, NZ: Department of Social Welfare

[4] ibid

[5] Committee on the Rights of the Child. (2016). Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of New Zealand(21 October). Retrieved from http://docstore.ohchr.org/SelfServices/FilesHandler.ashx?enc=6QkG1d%2fPPRiCAqhKb7yhsrXsJ3pRx9xOCak0Ed1mLEkIUHtKTSHNWA9ddXmo8oiUgGuB9JUoxS6ES4ymmXawE3W7Z52o%2b4tn33VBe09mSo1PELAebMOgBS4BCR%2fv23Ao

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