Wrap Around a Little More

Published: October 27, 2020

A study funded by the Ian Axford (New Zealand) Fellowships in Public Policy and prepared by Rachel Galanter.


The majority of reports of concern to Oranga Tamariki result in no further statutory involvement. Oranga Tamariki data from 30 April 2018 to 30 April 2020 exemplifies this trend—of 182,565 notifications, 47 per cent resulted in further action.

However, more than one in five families who were judged as needing no further statutory action had a new notification to Oranga Tamariki within a year. Early intervention is warranted to address needs that may improve with community support and otherwise may result in risk to children’s welfare.

The capacity of Aotearoa New Zealand to respond effectively to early signs of need is enmeshed with the success of the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy (CYWS). If we can better understand Aotearoa New Zealand’s current responses to early signs of need, we can clarify how the Early Intervention function of the Oranga Tamariki operating model can remedy difficulties experienced by families and whānau so they do not escalate into a need for statutory response.

This report, written by Rachel Galanter (Executive Director, Exchange Family Center), with funding from the sponsors of the Ian Axford Fellowships in Public Policy, explores which current early interventions and universal services support the wellbeing of tamariki, rangatahi and their whānau who need additional support.

The report begins by providing background on the revision to the Oranga Tamariki operating model, discussing current responses to early signs of need and setting out the plan for strengthening the government’s approach to early intervention to prevent the need for families’ future involvement in the care, protection and youth justice systems.

Key findings

Strengths of the current early intervention array were identified in interviews and through review of of handbooks, protocols, standards, strategies, annual reports implementation research and evaluation reports. In addition to universal services provided early in children’s lives to meet basic needs, New Zealand has an extensive range of programmes to address other needs:

  • Universal services
  • Multiple components of the current early intervention array
  • Whānau Ora
  • Family Start
  • Social Workers in Schools
  • Strengthening Families
  • The current array and the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy (CYWS)

The report culminates with three recommendations:

Connect: Provide funding and set caseload sizes for social workers and contracted providers to allow time for travel to clients, service provision outside business hours, nurturing relationships among agencies and professional development building communication skills related to engagement and motivation.

Count: Use the Oranga Tamariki Action Plan to systematise data measurement and then strengthen data collection and tracking across programmes, agencies and ministries.

Co-develop: Use the Oranga Tamariki Action Plan to develop a plan to address the gap in mental health and alcohol and drug support for families, co-developing the expanded services with community partners rather than seeking a stamp of approval after development.