The new Ministry for Vulnerable Children (Oranga Tamariki) needs a chance to succeed, but that means proper resourcing and decent legislation, says Labour’s spokesperson for Children Jacinda Ardern.
“Labour has always supported the establishment of a separate Ministry for Children, and we are desperate to see better outcomes for children in New Zealand - but that does mean properly supporting families and frontline staff.
“While the launch of the Ministry kicks off today, the legislation driving it still has to be passed by Parliament, there are dangerous shortages of social workers in areas like the Wairarapa and large numbers of vacancies in other frontline staff.
“The Law Society has come out and called for a “complete rewrite” of the new agency’s proposed guiding legislation if it is actually going to protect children and young people. Meanwhile, the Children’s Commissioner, Maori Women’s Welfare League, UNICEF, and social services providers have identified massive fundamental problems with the legislation. They say it’s mired in confusing new terms that could lead to poor decisions on the frontline.
“At the same time there are 14 vacancies alone for Family Group Conference Coordinators. The Family Court’s chief judge recently had to write to the Ministry of Social Development to demand more social workers in the Wairarapa as families and children were in danger.
“Giving Oranga Tamariki the best start means giving it strong foundations - we cannot afford to get this wrong. That means listening to experts on the legislation, properly supporting our social workers, and helping families with what they need to grow happy, healthy kids” says Jacinda Ardern.