Release of Oranga Tamariki reports regarding children in care

Published: January 29, 2024 · Updated: January 29, 2024

MEDIA STATEMENT: Oranga Tamariki is today releasing our fifth annual Safety of Children in Care (SOCIC) report and our first annual self-assessment of our compliance with the National Care Standards. Oranga Tamariki takes our responsibility to be accountable and transparent about the experiences of the children and families we work with seriously.

These 2 important pieces of work provide us with a valuable insight into the entire care system. They help us identify areas where we are seeing positive change and also where we need to improve. 

You can read the reports at the links below:

Safety of Children in Care Annual Report 2022/23

Oranga Tamariki Compliance Report against National Care Standards

Children and young people in Oranga Tamariki care deserve the best and we are working hard to change a system which has not consistently provided this to them in the past. We are heartened by improvements and progress identified in all the reports. They show us that the vast majority of children in care are in safer, stable care arrangements, that are more responsive to their needs than in the past. However there are areas we know we need to do better and we are working hard to address this. 

The Oranga Tamariki National Care Standards Compliance report shows there has been a significant improvement in the performance of Oranga Tamariki. In the past year, our organisation showed improvement for more than half of the lead indicators where there was comparable data from the previous reporting period. Additionally, our monitoring has found that more children in care have a current needs assessment with planning underway to meet those needs. This includes consultation with professionals working alongside the tamariki, and evidence that their identity and culture, safety, health, and disability-related needs were reflected in their assessments and plans. 

We know that children and young people who experience frequent changes in their care arrangements are less likely to have their full range of needs met. This year 78% of all children in care stayed in the same care placement for the full year. This stability meant that more support has been able to be wrapped around them to improve their wellbeing and strengthen their connections with those important to them. For example, in 2023, 94% of children’s plans which we reviewed addressed their safety needs, 92% addressed their education needs, 87% addressed their health needs and 86% addressed their need for connection with family and whānau.  This is a significant improvement on previous years.

Children and young people have told us that having a stable care arrangement trusted relationships and being involved in decisions are things that are really important to them.  In a 2023 survey of 893 children and young people in care, 90% said they felt settled where they live, 97% said they felt well looked after, 78% felt they had a say in decisions made about them and 97% said they had people in their lives who loved them no matter what.   

These improvements have only been possible thanks to the important work of our caregivers, families, communities, partners and our own staff doing everything they can to ensure the best outcomes for children and young people in care. 

We do acknowledge there are areas where we are falling short of the standards we expect, and for us that is unacceptable.  In particular, we know that we need to continue to focus on better supporting caregivers, ensuring that social workers have the time and resources to engage with the children in our care and to better support tamariki Māori and Pacific children in their connection with their culture. 

The Safety of Children in Care report tells us during the period between July 2022 and June 2023, 519 children in care experienced an incident of harm for which they had a recorded finding. The total number of recorded findings in the period was 895. This is an increase from the previous reporting period.  

Any finding of harm is a concern to us and we would like to acknowledge the children and young people who have spoken up and reported any experiences of harm they have faced. We appreciate this can take immense courage, it is important that every child in our care knows they are listened to, and that action will be taken. Each episode of harm is independently reviewed by a senior social worker to ensure that appropriate steps have been taken to ensure each child’s ongoing safety and support.   

Whilst each finding reflects an episode of harm which is both serious and unacceptable, within each abuse type, there is a wide variety in the nature and severity of the harm. The majority of the increase in harm reported this year relates to older children and those experiencing harm when returning to the care of their parents or in residential care, including young people being harmed by other young people.   

We believe there are several drivers of this increase, including an increased understanding of the importance of formally reporting every incident of harm. For example, it is only recently that harm caused to a young person by another young person is routinely being recorded as a new report of concern. This year we are reporting an increase in emotional abuse, particularly where children have returned to their parents’ care. As noted in the ICM’s previous thematic report on returning home from care, parents are often experiencing stressors such as unstable housing, unmet parental mental health needs and financial pressure which impact on their parenting and require intensive and ongoing interagency support. Oranga Tamariki is committed to addressing these findings, and resolving them alongside communities and our partners. We have a number of improvements in place and other changes underway to prevent harm to any children or young people in our care. 

Many of the issues raised are being addressed by programmes of work that are already in progress, such as our Transformation and Practice Approach. The organisational vision of Oranga Tamariki continues to be children being safe, loved and nurtured by their families, supported by thriving communities – and there has been increased and considerable investment in enabling our people to meet this vision. We acknowledge that there continues to be gaps in our data collection and record keeping.  

In order to address this, our Caregiver Information System (CGIS) is being migrated to an improved platform later in 2024 to support Oranga Tamariki as part of a multi-year programme of work to update and modernise our frontline technology systems. This programme includes the gradual replacement of CYRAS and other legacy systems as new and modern tools are introduced. As well as improving information about children in care, these improvements will also free up social work time so that they can spend it supporting children, caregivers and families directly. The programme of work is called the Frontline Technology Systems Upgrade (FTSU) and commenced in July 2023. 

Since the release of a rapid assessment of Residences led by previous Police Commissioner Mike Bush we have been working to ensure all our staff have the knowledge and skills needed to reduce harm in the residence environment. A significant work plan is underway in our residences which includes providing training and supervision, introducing enhanced operating procedures and workforce development, and supporting education and coaching from psychologists to understand and respond to trauma. 

Whilst Oranga Tamariki accepts it is ultimately responsible for ensuring the quality of care children receive, we cannot meet the full needs of children in care alone and we rely on services being available from other government agencies. We are working closely in partnership with these agencies as part of the Oranga Tamariki Action Plan (OTAP). OTAP means that there’s shared accountability across key agencies to help shift the experiences of children and young people and their families, and communities who are priority populations of interest to Oranga Tamariki. A number of initiatives are underway across these agencies to improve the visibility of children and young people in care across the care system and address known barriers to them accessing the health, education and support services they need. 

We believe the importance of this collaborative way of working is highlighted in some of the findings of the ICM report into Access to Primary Health Services and Dental Care Over the past year, Oranga Tamariki and health agencies have undertaken significant collaboration to develop a cross-agency work programme to improve the health of children and young people in care. OTAP has enabled effective cross-agency progress to improve health and wellbeing outcomes, particularly in developing a detailed understanding of system issues. In particular we have worked closely with health to access data which gives us a more accurate picture of children in care’s access to health care. Through this work we know that 93% of children in care are enrolled with a Primary Health Organisation and 70% have seen a GP in the last 12 months. We also know that whilst 63% of children were not fully immunised at the appropriate age, 85% are now fully immunised and this is comparable with the general population.  This shows that when we work collaboratively with our partners, a child’s time in care can help them ‘catch up’ on previously unmet health needs. Moving forward, we will be working closely with colleagues in health to continue to strengthen data and information about children in care, create more visibility of children in care within the health system and develop clinical tools which support the requirements of annual health checks for children in care. 

We are working hard to break down barriers and ensuring the best outcomes for children and young people in care is a core priority of Oranga Tamariki. We are committed to doing better, we know we have a way to go and appreciate the work of the families, communities and partners that are enabling children in care to be safer, better supported and cared for.