Evidence Centre seminar: April 2019

Published: May 10, 2019

Our April seminar featured two presentations: one discussing recent welfare and tax policy studies that examine the link between income and child maltreatment, the other about children and young people's views on what makes a good life.

How do welfare and tax settings affect children’s involvement with child protective services?

Catherine Harrow is an analyst within the Oranga Tamariki Evidence Centre. Catherine gave a brief overview of some recent experimental and quasi-experimental welfare and tax policy studies that have examined whether the link between income and child maltreatment is causal. 

This area has particular relevance for decision-makers who need to understand the potential costs or benefits of different welfare policy settings.


How do welfare and tax settings affect children's involvement with the child protective services - video transcript

Catherine Harrow - analyst, Oranga Tamariki evidence centre:

Hi my name is Catherine Harrow and I'm an analyst and the Oranga Tamariki evidence centre.

So the evidence centre completes research, evaluation and analytics work to support the business.

So today I will be speaking to you about some recent literature that describes recent experimental and quasi-experimental studies and I'll explain what these are shortly.

So these studies have explored the impact of welfare and tax policies on child maltreatment outcomes.

So briefly, just some context for the work.

So the welfare expert advisory group was established in May of last year by Carmel Sepuloni, the Minister for Social Development, and the purpose of this group was to review New Zealand's social welfare system.

So their report is expected to be released sometime in early April.

As part of supporting the work of the group, the Ministry of Social Development and Oranga Tamariki completed a joint piece of work.

And this project exploded the impact of Section 70(A) benefit deductions on children and young people and what the impact of removing these deductions might be.

There was also some interest in Section 70(A) prior to the establishment of the group, so in mid-2017 the then Minister for Social Development instructed MSD to complete research on the effectiveness and impact of Section 70(A).

In October 2017 the incoming government said that it intended to remove the Section 70(A) benefit deductions.

So you're probably wondering, you know, what is Section 70(A)?

So these benefit deductions refer to a policy designed to encourage claims for child support. So this policy requires that parents who receive a Sole Parent Benefit apply for child support from the other parent. And this money is withheld while they are receiving a benefit to offset the cost.

For each dependent child they do not seek child support for their benefit is reduced by between $22 and $28 per week. So on average this works out to a family having a $34 reduction per week or about a 10% reduction in the Sole Parent Support benefit.

Now there are some exemptions to this policy.

So if there's a lack of evidence to establish who the other parent is or the parent is taking steps to identify the other parent, or there is fear of violence.

So the joint project that we did with MSD included a descriptive profile of children affected by Section 70(A). And this was done using Work and Income and Oranga Tamariki administrative data. And this work was led by Moira Wilson, who is our principal over at MSD.

It also included a review of some recent literature on empirical studies that explore the impact of benefit sanctions and tax policies on child maltreatment outcomes.

And this was the part I was mostly involved with.

The final report also summarized some recent qualitative work which explored Māori and Pacific mothers' experiences of benefits and child support.

So this work was sent in draft to the advisory group in August of last year and shared with joint ministers in October.

Sorry, it might be a bit less exciting out of those options, but, yeah, what I'll be talking about is some of the key findings from those experimental and quasi-experimental studies.

So first some context.

So what do we know about the relationship between low income and outcomes for children. So firstly, this is a contentious area and internationally there is a lot of debate around it. In saying that there is a large body of work that has linked child poverty to a range of negative outcomes relating to health, psychosocial development, education and involvement in child protective services. The relationship between low income and child neglect is also well-established. However it is important to note that the majority of families, whether living with low income or not, do not harm their children.

So why does low income sometimes lead to negative outcomes for children?

The two main theories that are used to explain this relationship are the "what money can buy" and the "parental stress" models. So the basic argument of the first model is that higher income enables parents to purchase better quality housing, food, early childhood education and schooling as well as extra curricular activities.

And all of these contribute to improved outcomes for children.

On the other hand, if parents have insufficient income to meet children's basic needs then this may increase the likelihood of some indicators of neglect, such as an inadequate clothing and medical care.

In contrast, the parental stress model argues that low income impacts the likelihood of poor child outcomes through increased parental stress.

So maladaptive coping mechanisms, parental conflict, mental health issues or substance use may all be triggered or exacerbated by stress.

Now these theories are not mutually exclusive. So both could be affecting families and children's experiences.

So before exploring the relationship between low income and child maltreatment further it's important to mention that although a large body of research shows a link between income and children's outcomes, the majority of this work cannot be used to understand whether low income causes poor outcomes for children.

And partly this is because establishing causal effects is notoriously difficult. So in order to understand whether the link is causal studies need to use empirical designs to control for bias and confounding factors.

So what makes an experimental or quasi-experimental design?

I won't go into this in too much depth but briefly, experimental designs, such as randomised control trials, control for confounding factors through randomly allocating participants from the same sample to either experimental or control conditions.

So an example in this area would be randomly allocating participants to a new benefit policy with additional or stricter financial sanctions compared to business as usual.

So these designs minimize confounding factors so that any differences in outcomes between the two groups are more likely to be due to the variable of interest.

So the new welfare policy.

So in contrast, quasi-experimental designs include natural experiments where assignment to the experimental or control condition is driven by environmental factors, such as state government decisions to set benefit levels at different rates.

Statistical techniques can also be used to approximate an experimental design and identify comparable control individuals.

So these studies are not as robust as a true experimental design, but the argument is that they still allow you to make conclusions about whether a factor like low income causes poor outcomes, which is not possible with correlational designs.

So it's important to mention that although these types of designs have the advantage of supporting you(?) to infer causality, they still do have some limitations.

The reality is that completely measuring and eliminating the impact of confounds is not often practicable. So this is particularly the case with the relationship between income and child outcomes which is complex.

Income changes can have differing impacts depending on child, family and community level characteristics, which can act as risk or protective factors.

Quasi-experimental studies in particular face challenges with obtaining unbiased samples and fair proxies.

So participants are often identified through their contact with government agencies. So there are some issues with selection bias.

Studies are also limited by what data is available, which is often administrative.

So a couple more limitations.

So one of the key issues with the applicability of these studies that I'll be talking about today is that most were conducted in the United States. So this means you need to be cautious around applying these to the New Zealand context.

Another challenge is that across the different studies there are different measures of maltreatment, different welfare systems and child protective service practices which limit your ability to make direct comparisons across studies.

And so because of these issues I'll be talking about the findings of these studies a bit more generally.

So what happens when welfare payments are reduced?

So there is some evidence that lowering welfare payments can increase rates of entry into care.

So a Danish quasi-experimental study found that reducing welfare payments can lead to substantial increases in rates of out-of-home care.

So in 2004 the Danish government introduced time dependent welfare payment ceilings.

So basically caps were introduced which limited the amount of benefit that was available the longer it was drawn down.

This policy meant that some mothers experience a sharp decrease in welfare payments, which worked out to be about 30% of their disposable incomes, which is obviously quite a lot.

And that income change increased children's risk of out-of-home care by 25%.

So in addition to increasing rates of entry into care, there's some evidence that lowering welfare payments can increase the likelihood of neglect.

So Fine and Lee(?) examined the impact of a welfare reform package in Delaware.

And they use stricter penalties to encourage beneficiaries to obtain employment.

They use an experimental design, where participants were assigned to either business as usual which was the control group or a new policy which included strict penalties for failing to meet job searching and job readiness requirements.

So what the researchers found was that the group assigned to the stricter approach experienced more benefit deductions, which you'd expect, more employment, which suggested that the approach was somewhat successful in increasing employment, but also more cases of substantiated neglect.

So I'm going to spend a little bit of time talking about the study because I think it illustrates a few points that I think are interesting.

So, first of all, you know, this study is a good example of where multiple elements change at once.

So employment was changing alongside income. So this is particularly problematic as increased levels of employment could have positive or negative impacts on parents.

So if mothers gain improved self-esteem and mental health from working then this may reduce rates of abuse, but if parents are unable to access or afford child care then returning to work may lead to an increased likelihood of neglect through inadequate supervision.

So what happens when benefit amounts -- an earnings increase?

So a key finding is that small increases in income can substantially reduce the likelihood of involvement with child protective services.

So as part of a randomised control trial in Wisconsin mothers who made use of temporary financial assistance to meet basic needs, so to meet food, housing and utilities, received either a full or partial pass through of child support payments.

So what this means is that if the mother has lodged an application for child support from the other parent then they will receive some or all of that support in addition to the temporary financial assistance.

So this was a change from standard practice which was to retain child support payments to offset the costs.

They found that an average increase in income from child support payments of $100 per year led to a 10% reduction in the odds of having a maltreatment report screened in for further assessment.

So the finding that small increases in income can reduce the likelihood of involvement with child protective services is supported by another study.

So this study was conducted in the United States and examined state level variation in benefit levels.

They found that small increases in income can substantially reduce the likelihood of child neglect and entry into care.

So a 10% increase in the maximum benefit was predicted to reduce rates of neglect by 39% and the foster care population by nearly 20%.

So policies that increase earnings through tax credits have also been shown to reduce the likelihood of neglect or involvement with child protective services.

So one study examined the relationship between income and child maltreatment outcomes, which were child protective service involvement and abuse and neglect type parenting behaviours.

They used survey data in a quasi-experimental design, which made use of differences between states and over time and the amount of refundable tax credit available to low income earners.

So a key finding was that a yearly income increase of a thousand dollars significantly decreased the probability of child protective service involvement by 7% to 10%.

This income increase also lead to a modest reduction in rates of self report neglect type parenting behaviours.

So in addition to reducing the likelihood of child maltreatment outcomes, policies that increase earnings can also improve child developmental outcomes.

So reviews of experimental and quasi-experimental research in the States show that earning supplements have small but consistently positive effects on child development and education.

So earning supplements are designed to support people to move from benefit to work.

They include increasing the amount that can be earned through work without affecting benefit amounts and providing supplements to income through earnings separate from the benefit system.

So improved developmental outcomes have been linked to parents using the increased income to purchase child centre based care which is consistent with the "what money can buy" model I mentioned earlier.

In contrast, policies that encourage employment without increasing income, such as mandatory work activities or time limits for benefit receipt do not have clear benefits for children's development.

So the previous studies I've mentioned suggest that increasing income can reduce the likelihood of involvement with child protective services and child maltreatment as well as improved children's developmental outcomes.

Investment a short term financial supports to meet material needs has also been linked to reductions in child maltreatment outcomes.

So one study made use of a natural experiment in the States where families with both open child welfare cases, mostly relating to neglect, and receiving home based support services, varied on whether they access discretionary funds.

So the purpose of these funds was to cover basic needs, including food and utilities.

They found that the group that accessed the funds was 17% less likely to have a renotification in the next year.

So so far I've talked about a couple of studies that have found a significant impact of income changes on outcomes for children, but that isn't always the case.

So some studies find mixed results or no evidence of a relationship.

And I listed a couple there.

Now I won't go into each of these studies in much depth but I will talk about some of the general issues.

So null or mixed findings might reflect a weak relationship between the income and outcome measures.

So, for example, there's more mixed evidence on the relationship between unemployment and child maltreatment compared to direct measures of income.

Null findings might also be driven by methodological issues, such as problematic proxies.

So some studies have used uptake of food stamps, which is food purchasing assistance, as a proxy for poverty as recipients must be living on a low income in order to be eligible.

And the issue with this proxy is that it will not identify those who do not participate in the programme, due to a lack of knowledge, inability to sign up or by choice.

There are also some challenges identifying appropriate control participants in quasi-experimental designs.

So, for example, Lee et al(?), which I mentioned on that previous slide, conducted some statistical tests and that suggested they didn't manage to identify comparable control individuals as part of their design.

There are also limitations to available administrative data.

So information is not always available on how money is spent, which makes it hard to explore findings.

And this issue highlights the value of mixed method studies where administrative data is supplemented by richer qualitative data or case studies that explore individuals' or families' experiences or responses to programmes.

Knowing me I've probably raced through all of that.

So just some final comments.

So there is some evidence that lowering welfare payments can increase rates of child neglect and entry into care.

In contrast, small increases in income can substantially reduce the likelihood of involvement with child protective services, child neglect, and entry into care and policies that increase earnings can also reduce the likelihoodof involvement with child protective services or neglect.

There's also some evidence that short term financial supports to meet material needs can lead to reductions in child maltreatment outcomes.

However, it's important to remember that though these findings seem, you know, clear-ish, these designs do have limitations.

There's different welfare systems, measures of maltreatment and service practices across jurisdictions which make direct comparisons across studies difficult.

And there is a lack of evidence in the New Zealand context. That's me. These my contact details if you do want to get in touch and ask any further questions after the session.

We will be joint publishing the brief that I wrote as well as the wider project report on MSD's and our website. So keep an eye out for that if you like.

We will be timing it with the release of the Advisory Group report. So not 100% sure when that will be. So keep an eye out on their website as well.

Thank you.

End of transcript.

What makes a good life? Children and young people’s views on wellbeing.

Donna Provoost is the Director (Strategy, Rights and Advice) at the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, and Kiri Milne is General Manager, Voices of Children and Young People at Oranga Tamariki.

Donna and Kiri discussed the report, ‘What makes a good life? Children and young people’s views on wellbeing’, which shares the views of over 6000 children and young people, including children and young people in care.

It discusses what wellbeing means to children and young people, what helps and what gets in the way. The report was designed to inform the government’s Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy, but it has wider implications for all professionals working with children and young people in both the government and non-government sector.


What makes a good life? Children and young people's views on wellbeing - video transcript

Kiri Milne - General Manager, Voices of Children and Young People, Oranga Tamariki:

Tena koutou katoa.

He mihi nui.

He mihi mahana.

Kia koutou katoa.

Ko Kiri Milne tōku ingoa.

So I am the manager of the very new Voices of Children and Young People function at Oranga Tamariki. I just want to give you a little bit of context on Oranga Tamariki's background and why — I guess why we're here today, what brings us here today.

So as many of you will know, Oranga Tamariki, we're two years into a five year change journey rebuilding the organization. We were CYFs, we're now Oranga Tamariki, but also working towards — along with the wider sector, along with our iwi partners, along with all of our community partners and others who are here today, working towards transforming the system that takes care of our most at risk children and young people.

So some of you will be familiar with some of our key areas of change.

We're looking at lifting the quality of care that we provide to children and young people and it's underpinned by regulated care standards, rights and standards of care that every child in care can experience from the state.

More support for caregivers, providing a support service for 18 to 25 year olds, who in the past didn't have anything to go on to, didn't have their adult help when they left care necessarily.

An expanded youth justice system to include 17 year olds, really importantly, an introduction of an intensive intervention service that will focus on how we support whānau to keep their children at home, which is where they need to be and where they should be.

And so all of this is underpinned by the new section 7(A)(a) of the Oranga Tamariki Act which really charges all of us, but particularly those of us at Oranga Tamariki  to have higher aspirations for Māori.

So we're charged with ensuring that our policy, services and practices are having regard to mana te mighty(?), the mana of tamariki, whakapapa and whanaungatanga.

That we're setting measurable outcomes for how we will reduce disparities between Māori and non-Māori tamariki, we're reporting on that publicly and we are forming strategic and meaningful relationships with iwi and other Māori organisations.

These are really strong obligations on us as an organisation and we take them very, very seriously and they sit right across the work that we're doing.

I think the other really related piece of that I wanted to call out is that we have a commitment to ensuring that children and young people are enabled and supported to have a say in the decisions that affect them, and that they're supported to express their views and have those views heard.

So this is where we've, I guess, where we've come from and what brings us here today, that as an organisation we are committed to listening to children's voices, we're committed to building and upholding the mana of tamariki, having regard to their whakapapa and whanaungatanga.

So the project we're going to talk with you about today, the Child Youth and Wellbeing Strategy Engagement, is a really important signifier for us of our commitment as Oranga Tamariki, but also the government's commitment to listening to children and young people and enabling their voices to inform decisions, such as what are we going to do as a country to improve well-being for all tamariki.

Now I'll hand over to you, Donna, to introduce yourself.

Donna Provoost - Director of Strategy, Rights and Advice, Office of the Children’s Commissioner:

Kai ora. Tena koutou katoa.

Ko Donna Provoost aho.

I have the privilege of being the director of strategy, rights and advice at the Office of Children's Commissioner and I've been there for some time and you're going to have to blast me out, I think, with dynamite now because it's a really -- it's a privilege to work in that space to advocate for the interests, rights and well-being of our children in Aotearoa.

Just very brief, is that the Office of the Children's Commissioner, why are we here? What is our space? We monitor how well our 1.2 million children under 18 are doing.

What are the issues?

What is the things that we need support for them to move systemic change to give them better lives and their outcomes, and to challenge the government on some of those issues to try to see change.

Now we do that by bringing -- looking at what are the children's rights, was the prospectus, what do they need?

We look at the evidence and research that's out there, like the great stuff that Catherine's done, that was great soundbites because I use that all the time now, I don't have to read all those reports.

But also, another part of the evidence is the voices of children and young people themselves about what their lived experience is and we treat that as evidence into the mix and say not only what are the issues, what are the solutions, what should we be advocating for?

A lot of you know that Children's Commissioner, particularly in the OT sense, is about, well you're a monitor right?But we have a role for all children.

And then part of our legislation says, and for children and young people within the care of Oranga Tamariki and receiving services, we will then monitor those experiences more deeply and understand to ensure that kids that are, both vulnerable in state care, and youth justice, are receiving good services.

So we have a separate team that do the monitoring function and then my team is about looking out for the interest, rights and wellbeing of all children.

So that's the kind of mix of it.

Kiri Milne - General Manager, Voices of Children and Young People, Oranga Tamariki:

Just very quickly, you will have picked this up, but this report and the engagement that sits behind is a collaboration — the result of a collaboration between the Voices of Children Team at Oranga Tamariki and the Office of the Children's Commissioner.

So between the Strategy, Rights and Advice team and the Voice of Children team and with the support of community organisations and Oranga Tamariki sites, and I really want to call that out.

They played a critical role in enabling this engagement to happen.

We engage with more than 6000 children and young people at the end of last year, as I mentioned at the beginning, via a survey and via face to face engagements which Donna's going to tell you a little bit more about in a moment.

So we undertook this engagement with children and young people at the request of the department, and with the support of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet who were looking at pulling together the Child, Youth and Wellbeing Strategy, they hold that responsibility.

So by way of background to the strategy the children's rights — the Children's Act 2014 requires the government to adopt, publish and review a strategy for improving the wellbeing of all children.

That legislation includes an obligation to consult with children and young people to inform that strategy, which is of course in line with principles that we're all familiar with, of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that children and young people have the right to participate in decisions that affect them.

So the Child and Youth well-being develop — strategy for — the development for the strategy does uphold these obligations. The strategy is designed to drive action on child well-being within government, but also in communities across New Zealand. The legislation also requires that children's agencies will work together to improve the well-being of particular groups of children. And so one of the ways that we'll be addressing that is through the Oranga Tamariki action plan, which is under development at the moment. The development's started, and that will focus on the specific actions that are required by different government agencies. So Oranga Tamariki, of course, Health, Education, Justice, Police, MSD.

So the Children and Youth Wellbeing strategy provides an umbrella from which some other really critical pieces, such as the Oranga Tamariki action plan will fall out. So I've already mentioned some of the parties involved in the collaboration for this piece of work. I also want to mention the schools.

Almost 100 schools from across the country that helped with the survey, the Office of the Children's Commissioner, community partners and Oranga Tamariki sites.

And for the sites, they didn't just help set up interviews and focus groups with children in care, but some of the staff also participated in those groups, some of them ran the groups on our behalf and had amazing conversations with the tamariki that they work with about what it means for them to have well-being and what gets in the way.

Of course we really want to acknowledge the children and young people who participated in this.

It is no small thing to offer your thoughts and your experiences to agencies that sit there in Wellington and don't seem to have a lot to do with your life and what happens in your life on a day-to-day basis, but they contributed their stories, they contributed their thoughts and they contributed those in the trust and the belief that we'll do something with that. And that's a responsibility that sits on all of us, to do something with what they've told us.

So I just wanted to note on the collaboration, this is -- and Donna actually touched on this a little bit, this is really important for us, this collaboration with the Office of the Children's Commissioner.

So, our traditional relationship with OCC is being monitored, and that is a really critical and ongoing important part of the OCC's role, but actually it's really exciting to be in a space where we can collaborate.

We have a huge shared space of interest, in terms of listening to children's voices and advocating for their voices to be heard and to influence change.

So, yeah, we — at Oranga Tamariki we're really excited about the opportunity to work with the OCC and have our teams come together on this mahi. So — and to be fair, we couldn't have done it on our own, it was a huge piece of work.

I'll hand over again now, Donna.

Donna Provoost - Director of Strategy, Rights and Advice, Office of the Children’s Commissioner:

Yeah, I think that point of neither one of us could have done it on our own, we couldn't have done it without some financial support from DPMC, we couldn't have done it without the goodwill of many community partners.

And I think what's really important part to take away from this is we've got to think sometimes quite differently about how we do stuff, as well as what we do, and I think this was, you know, if you want to — if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together, and I hope that we're going far with this and it is.

Now, what do we actually ask?

So child wellbeing — that's not me. Going out and asking children about their wellbeing. We tested a lot of things and that just did not resonate. So we did a lot of things to come up with, like, what was it that they could get to explain in their own words what wellbeing is.

And we came across this, "What does a good life look like for you?”, and "are you having it?" And, "What gets in the way?" and "what can help enable it?"

So it was as basic as that, but it's also really important to know that you need to do that to figure out how do you translate our research questions into ways that you actually get good research. Instead of saying, "Oh I want to talk about wellbeing”, and it was just rubbish, so I'm not going to do that again. You need to make the effort to translate it and hear what they said.

Now when we ask a series of questions to some children in the school environments, where they had teacher support or others to help them in that, that — but we didn't ask them the same meaty questions that we asked when we were doing face-to-face, because we know that there are different ways to do those different things.

We did that in a different approach, and we were able to go down into the "what gets in the way, what would help, what's it look like?" solutions with the people we did face-to-face with at a much deeper level.

But the overall level that we heard from the survey respondents is still very valid and has a point.

So we had a total of over 5,600 survey respondents and those were in primary, secondary, intermediate, ALT ED providers, and then we also had some surveys from the link that was on the DPMC website, the survey was through there because we wanted it publicly available.

But overall good distribution of the age of children responding. I personally think that kind of 10 to 13 year olds are a sweet spot, and that's really great information you get from them.

A lot of people want to just talk to older kids. Don't limit yourself to that. Ten to 12 year olds have a lot to say and they're also in a really different point of their development where they're thinking about who they are.

We talked and we asked them about — self-identified their ethnicities and you go, "Oh, we talked to a lot of European kids”, well this is just the demographic reality of speaking to all New Zealanders' children. We picked the schools to invite to participate in this to give us good geographic distribution, to give a socioeconomic distribution by school decile, and have that mix.

So that the survey actually wasn't just all kids in three schools filling this out, it was a good distribution across the country.

Our face-to-face, we targeted this, and we targeted quite specifically to say we want to hear from children that need more support to have their voice heard that are most likely experiencing challenges,whether it be living in poverty of interest or services, DOT(?), being part of LGBTIA plus community, having disabilities, living in extreme rural areas, having family in gang members, things like that.

So we knew what some of the — from our understanding, we already knew what many of those risk factors were, so we wanted to talk to children that were having those experiences to make sure that was the voice.

Suddenly our ethnicity distribution has changed quite substantially, and we estimate that over — around 60% of the face to face engagements were with Māori children. And in some ways we should celebrate that because we've really heard the voices from tamariki Māori in this. The other, this is really sad because they were the group that we went to to say — who are facing the most challenges.

And I want to point that out to say that in this we're not saying we heard from tamariki Māori and this is the views, because we heard from tamariki Māori that were experiencing challenges. There are whole other communities and groups of tamariki Māori that represent different experiences.

So we just need to be careful of interpreting some of this to understand that not all Māori children would have those experiences, but a very disproportionate rate of Māori children are experiencing that, and be careful of how we interpret it.

Yes, and as I said, we talked to a lot of children with lot of different experiences and that was quite deliberate.

So the face-to-face commentary and solutions, by nature of our design, have different riches than what we have in the survey that represent all children, many who are doing fine.

And what do we hear?

Well, I think that that's — that many children are doing fine is a great thing to know.

And when we asked the children in the survey, "What's a good life like life look like" to them, we heard a lot of things like, being happy, having — being able to have your dreams met, setting your goals and life, achieving them. That's that being happy, enjoying life, having fun.

When we talk to the kids face-to-face this was a bubble that seemed to be a lot missing in it. And I think that's just important. We'll talk about the face-to-face, but that was a contrast that we saw.

But the other things about what makes a good life, having supportive family and friends, and that was such a strong theme that it wasn't about what you have, you can be living in quite stressful circumstances, but if you have that family and friends’ support around you everything's okay.

We know that as adults, kids intuitively knew that as well.

But they also talked about having their basic needs met and how that was really important.

And this is, again, when you're — think the survey of all children, many of the children answering that survey have all their basic needs met, but they've identified these things because they recognise others haven't.

So that we got a great flavour of that empathy for others who were having stress.

And we put these in, kind of, overlapping circles and that because these themes came out, they did overlap, they did reflect and we did all this analysis using an AI method through TEXT FERRET. So it went and searched out what were the themes and clusters.

We didn't go and say,"Right, show me every response that mentioned family” because some people mentioned family about my — or friends is a good one, some people mentioned friends and that, "my friends really helped me live good lives".

And another person might have said, "I don't have friends and I'm sad".

And those sentiments are quite different.

So this would treat them different because of how it clusters matches and takes the sentiment and phraseology together.

So I'm not an expert in AI, I won't claim to be, but I know that this does it in a method that — so that you know this isn't the only time that those things were mentioned, but these were the clusters of themes about wanting to be valued or respected, having basic needs met, being healthy, were genuine themes.

And at the risk of having one of the most cluttered slides ever, and I know you're not supposed to do this, but this is a really good indication of some of the questions that we asked, because we said, "What's wellbeing mean, and how are you experiencing it?"

This was part of the how you're experiencing it.

And we picked a bunch of statements that reflect elements of wellbeing, like, "I have a warm dry place to live”, how much do you — do you strongly agree, agree, neither agree or disagree etc of that.

And these are all ranked by a nice little pattern down there, because it's really interesting the pattern, and it's really interesting the proportions of kids that show then that they are leading a good life.

They have the things that we would expect that should be in place. They have warm dry houses, they feel safe, they have opportunities and skills for the future, they can go to the doctor when they need to.

But what's really disturbing in all this is we're consistently not all children experiencing these equally. We have an unequal distribution. Why is that and who is that?

We have a little story that we tell at the Office of Children's Commissioner about 70/2010, you may have heard the commissioner talk about this.

We say overall, and these are general conclusions but it reflects a lot of looking at (inaudible) overall 70% of our kids in New Zealand are doing well. Some of them world leading well, and that's great, and we should celebrate that more. Because we often do just talk in the negative. But the really disturbing thing is that's not good enough. We want that same experience for all of our children and young people.

So we'd like these to be at 100%, they're not. What does that say to us?

So between 63% and 94% of agreeing with these statements is pretty good. And it also reflects that 70/2010 story as a generalisation. And when you look at some of these, where we have administrative data to test them, like, who doesn't have a warm dry place to live? Actually the proportion there is generally reflective of what we know about the probably 70,000 - 80,000 kids that are living in caravans, are sleeping in cars, are doing it rough and really do not have a warm dry home.

So it gives us some comfort of the analysis, but it also shows that there's about 2% of these kids that really, really are struggling that have answered negatively to this.

This doesn't reflect the experience on multiple of the readings, and about 10% have four or more, that doesn't reflect their situation.

And 2% I think is — we’re going to have to check the number of respondents, but 2% are, I think, on eight or more of these not relating to this as experience.

So it really shows you some children are experiencing a different life and we need to help support that.

So those were the people that we mostly heard from in the face-to-face.

The last question that we asked the survey, we also asked on all the face-to-face engagement.

So, as a wrap up to the survey we said, "If there's one thing that you could tell the Prime Minister about what children and young people need now in the future to have a good life what is it? What do you want to tell the Prime Minister?"

We also did that as a postcard at the end of the engagement that they could fill out and give their messages.

And we've put these all together.

Big one, everyone should have their basic needs met and talked about.It's not enough to know that there are — even if it's not my situation and we could look at the data and say actually these same kids that said everyone should have their needs met, many of those were in the having their needs met category.

We all need our family, friends and people who love and care for us.

Support my health and mental health.

Education is really important — often we'll forget about education is that children and young people are spending 13 years, six to eight hours a day in a setting that has a great deal of influence on them.

So it's not just the what the classroom and what their NCAA achievements is at the end, it's how the relationships, friendships, environment shapes them as a person and supports their development that we also need to think about.

And there's a lot of discussion about that.

So these are just some snippets of some of the things that we heard.

Full report there, but I think Kiri's going to talk about some of the themes we heard from those 423 kids that we know were doing it tough or were in situations that they were likely doing it tough.

What did they have to say?

Kiri Milne - General Manager, Voices of Children and Young People, Oranga Tamariki:

So as Donna said, synthesised together from the conversations with 423 children and young people five key messages that the team were able to really call out, I guess.

And I just want to talk you through those one at a time.

So the first key message we heard was, accept us for who we are and who we want to be. So acceptance is crucial. Children and young people told us they want to be accepted for who they are, supported in their identity, respected,listened to and believed in.

And they want important adults in their life to help them to build their confidence and their self-esteem, and their self-worth, and to support their hopes for the future.

Now acceptance looks different for different groups of children.

So for some children and young people who the team spoke with, who are former refugees or perhaps recent migrants, they spoke about it in the sense of awareness and people's awareness of who they are and where they've come from, and what's going on in their lives and in a sense, perhaps, that for them to have acceptance they need to almost become visible first.

Some of them felt invisible, like they were just in the background.

Transgender young people often said the same thing about needing there to be greater awareness of who they are and what they face in order for them to have that sense of acceptance.

Other young people spoke about acceptance in terms of empathy and understanding. Somali and Pacifica young people often fell into this group. For them it wasn't that people didn't know, weren't even kind of aware they existed. It was that people were judgmental towards them and they felt that people lacked understanding of what was important for them in their life and their circumstances.

I'm not sure we've mentioned, but we spoke with quite a big group of Oranga Tamariki children as part of both sets of engagements. So children in care also spoke about the same issue, of course, but their lens on it was a little bit different.

What we heard from them was that they really talked about the need to feel that they're being treated equally and children told us about being in caregiver homes where it was really clear to them that the caregiver loved and treated their child — their own children, their biological children, differently from them as kids in care, who were being fostered and cared for by these whanau.

One young person from Hamilton said that he'd lived with caregivers in the past that had made him feel as though he was just a kid from Oranga Tamariki, just a kid from OT.

So they told us they want to be treated like all the other kids and they want to be treated fairly. They don't want to be judged. They want to have the same opportunities as children who are not in care. They spoke about the need — this is again, this is children in care. They spoke about the need for adults to give them the information they need to make sense of things and the importance of being listened to.

So this theme, "accept us for who we are” as I say, is right across all the children that we spoke with but different groups had a different lens and a different experience of what it means to be accepted.

A second key message, and this speaks to the graph that Donna's just shared with you, life is really hard for some of us.

Many children and young people face really significant challenges in their life. So you won't be surprised to hear this, but we heard it again and we heard it really, really loudly. So challenges such as racism, bullying, discrimination, judgement, violence and drugs.

Feeling of being continually let down by the systems that they know and believe are meant to there to support them. Children and young people spoke about the pressure of expectations but in different ways. So for some young people they talked about the pressure of expectations that were too high. They were expected to do more than they felt they could deliver to realise — felt they couldn't really realise those expectations of others.

Others spoke — and this was a real theme from children in care, they spoke about low expectations. People don't actually ever expect — adults in my life don't expect that I'm ever going to do well, that I'll do well at school, that on achieve things, that I'll go on to great things.

Children and young people spoke about racism.

They talked about their negative experiences of engaging with health professionals and feeling that those — sorry, professionals generally. So whether they're education, health, other professionals, feeling that they didn't know how to engage with them, for young Māori feeling that they didn't acknowledge where they came from, didn't even know how to pronounce their name.

A young girl in Rotorua shared with us that she would never go to a school counsellor because she felt they didn't really understand her background and they would only treat her like she's a problem that would just get passed around. So she didn't bother seeking out that service even though she knew it was there and perhaps knew that it could potentially support her.

Children and young people in care talked a lot about stigma and discrimination and the experience — the challenge they face of being separated from their whānau.

They spoke about the struggles with self-esteem, with rejection and other negative experiences such as violence and bullying.

One girl from — one story from a girl in Dunedin said that whenever people found out she was in foster care she'd get responses like, "Oh whose house did you burn down?"

How do you grow up with that sort of a response to people finding out the circumstances that you're in. Children and young people talk about the challenges they face within the care system itself.

They spoke about instability and the impact of these frequent and ongoing changes in their life. They talked about being let down by their social workers or caregivers. They really wanted to engage with their social workers and their social workers didn't always have time. And so they'd reach out and they wouldn't get a response.

They found — they talked about how if they couldn't access their social workers and get a response, they moved into a space where they didn't really trust that this was a person they could go to when they needed support.

This came through on the slides.

The bubble slides that Donna shared with you, came through again really strongly from the children we spoke to in person, the ones who were facing challenges.

To help us you have to help our whānau and our support crew. This was — for me this was perhaps one of the most compelling messages coming out of this piece of work. We can't be well unless the people around us who we belong to and who are our people are well as well.

So if you want to help us you have to help our whānau to be well.

Well-being is about relationships, it's not just about things and it's not just about services. It's about being well in the context of the whānau and the environment that you're in with the people who are important to you. Children want their whānau to be supported to be well. They want to spend more time with their whānau. They want their whānau to be involved in efforts that are put in place to help them. So the efforts to help children to be well to address their issues, they want their whānau to be involved in.

They told us loud and clear, "We don't exist in an isolation. You need to see us in the context of our whānau and you have to help us in the context of our whanau."

Children and young people in care spoke extensively about whānau and they talked a lot about siblings and their desire to be with their whānau and their desire to be with their brothers and sisters, but they also spoke about the really important role of other key support people in their lives, friends, role models, other supportive adults.

We've heard — a number of the conversations we've had with children and young people in care of the importance of professionals in the education space, teachers, other people in the school space who can play a really critical role as a supported and trusted adult for a young person.

Children talked about wanting to spend time with their whānau of course, and this again comes as no surprise to us.

One child from Whangarei said that her mum was the only person who she really, really knew would always be there for her. She would always pick her up from school, she'd always support her, she'd always cheer her up.

She missed her mum. She wanted to have that person back in her life because she was the one person she felt she could rely on for that response and that support of her.

This fourth message, we all deserve more than just the basics.

So children and young people of course want the basics.They want a home, a warm healthy safe home, an education, they want a safe community, but they don't just want just want that minimum standard of living. They want the systems that support them to be inclusive of them for who they are, accepting them for who they are and for their own hopes and aspirations. They want those systems to be accessible, they want them to be affordable.

So children and young people talked about the need, for example, for schooling to be inclusive of them and accessible. If you're going — it's all very well to go to school, but if you haven't got the money to have the right uniform or attend the school trips or participate in the sporting and other extracurricular activities are you really being included if everyone else gets to participate in that and you don't?

Children and young people with disabilities and from the Rainbow community also talked a lot about the importance of school being a safe and inclusive place for them, that recognised and valued them for who they are and made sure that the systems and ways things worked addressed their particular needs and where that they were at in their life.

Children and young people in care talked, of course, about the need of having basic — need to have the basics met, but also needing more than that.

They wanted — talked about wanting stability. Wanting to be out to grow up in a good environment. Wanting to be able to access the professional supports they needed.

And one young person talked about how everyone knows there's a school counsellor there, but actually there's a stigma attached to going to that school counsellor or everyone's going to draw some immediate assumptions about you, particularly if they know you're in care, then are you going to access that school counsellor?

Even though you might know it's there, how do we make — that service, which they want, how do we make it accessible and inclusive for them?

And finally, the last sort of key message we had from these conversations with these 423 children and young people, how you support us matters just as much as what you do.

So we heard really loudly and clearly it's not just about delivering the right services and ticking boxes. It's about how you deliver that support to us.

So the services that we, as the government and the wider community, think about providing for children and young people, they need to accept young people for who they are. They need to really respect and value and include their critical relationships with whānau and communities.

A couple of examples that came through to sort of illustrate this theme, young people talked about, it's all very well to have a house, but if your parents are never there, because they're working several jobs and the whānau is never together at the same time because they're so stretched just to be in that house and to maintain that roof over their head, is that sufficient?

We might have met a basic need, but have we met the need to be included and have a healthy whānau environment and time to spend with your whānau.

School is not enough if young people don't feel that they're accepted and that they're included for who they are and for their unique identity.

So overall, reflecting on the five and a half thousand young people we spoke to or engaged through the survey, and then the 400-odd we engaged face-to-face, we heard really loudly and clearly change is needed.

And so there are lots of children and young people, as Donna mentioned, who are doing okay. They're doing well, but even those young people could call out the things that as a community of young people they could see was needed.

The things that were needed for young people, all young people, in New Zealand to do well. They talked about whānau — family and whānau being crucial.

They need to be well for children to be well.

Providing the basics. I guess we heard this from young people, they've value being heard. They value being listened to.

And for some young people who the team engaged with, they've never had someone come and say to them,"What do you think about this? What do you think should happen in the space? How do you experience this?"

And they valued even the opportunity to have someone listen to them and value their voice. And for us working in the space where we can actually influences these services, we need to listen to what they're telling us.

We need to make sure that our services are responding to what they tell us they need, that need for acceptance, to be valued, to be connected with their whanau.

And I'm going to hand over to Donna to wrap up at that point.

Thanks, Donna.

Donna Provoost - Director of Strategy, Rights and Advice, Office of the Children’s Commissioner:

That's okay.

So just at the end. Thank you for your patience and that, we know it's been a bit of stuff up today.

So what's happened?

So we've talked to some young people. We've made a nice flash report out of it. Big deal, right? So I guess what have we done with it.

These views have been already fed into the child and youth well-being strategy as part of the summary of consultation that they have had, and it's up on DPMC website now. And we know that these views of have helped change and tweak the draft plan as they're moving along.

So that's a huge thing right there, is to know that these children's voices have been influential in the next phase of change in that strategy.

But we've also — we are going to be doing a lot of work, in some ways collecting and getting those voices together and having them in a way to share is only the first part of the step.

It's our job now to make sure that we share them widely with groups like yourselves and through different networks and that and to share them back to the communities and back to different practitioners because this isn't just about government action.

This is — a lot of the things that we heard, yes, you can look at that and take it on to how is that going to affect policy and how will that affect the different solutions and study into that.

But a lot of the things that children and young people talked about actually affect how we engage with children and young people every day in our communities, in our families, in our schools while they're getting services.

And there's messages there for everyone to take away and individually for us to take away about how we, you know, when you see a bunch of kids on skateboards and hoodies do you cross the street and mumble and go, "Oh, they're in my way” or do you smile at them and say, "Hey good on you"?

Like, there's just — they're a part of our community.

So we're doing a lot to feed this back and we'd like people to contact us if they have some ideas about that, of what they think we should be doing differently, or what different audiences.

And again, I've already got quite a few — when we sent this out and launched the report and put it up on the websites and so forth, I've got lots of emails back from places I didn't expect, from people who say, "Thanks for this. I do training on child protection issues. I'm going to use some of those voices as examples in my work."

"Thanks, I'm in a school. I see how this can change how we address."

So people are using this now and I think that's a really great story for us to take, it's not just a document on a shelf.

What's next?

We're going to continue to look at this.The report that we have, my prop here, the lovely report that we have, overview report, is capturing it all and trying to put it in one page.

That was quite a bit to do, but then the question is,but what explicitly did the kids from Oranga Tamariki say, and that's a piece of work that Kiri's team has been doing to do the deep dive and say across all this let's just pull out and talk about the kids in Oranga Tamariki care.

What's that look like?

Watch this space. They've got something coming up shortly on that.

And we're also doing some kind of pull outs that won't be full reports, but it will look more like maybe two or three page fact sheets about, you know — one topic that we've been asked about so far is around the kids in teen parent units we talked to and the teen mother experience. What do we know about that? What's their view? What did kids with disabilities say that was different from the overall population?

So we're doing some work to do some different cuts on it and there's a lot of information there. And, yeah, any suggestions, advice and comments from you will help us do that in a way that is most useful for your work. So we're interested in that.

And that's the end of our presentation.

End of presentation.

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