Evidence Centre Seminar: February 2022
Published: March 14, 2022
This virtual seminar featured Associate Professor Terry Fleming and her colleagues presenting their findings from the Youth19 Rangatahi Smart Survey (Youth19).
Wellbeing of rangatahi involved with Oranga Tamariki – Findings from the Youth19 Survey
Dr Fleming is a senior lecturer, an Associate Professor in population health at Victoria University of Wellington, and a long-standing member of the Adolescent Health Research Group. Her presentation compares outcomes between students who reported involvement with Oranga Tamariki, and those who did not. The presentation covered findings on the following - identity and cultural connectedness; housing and home life; health and wellbeing; community and safety; and the voice of young people currently involved with Oranga Tamariki using their open text responses.
DR TERRY FLEMING: Kia ora again. Firstly, I'd like to acknowledge everybody who has come along with your interest in this space, it is really wonderful. We have got some challenging findings to share, actually. Young people who have been involved in Oranga Tamariki do face challenges in many, many areas of life, so it's going to – we don't just want to share these challenging findings and then leave it dumped on people. We will be talking about what are some of the opportunities, knowing that all of you will be a really important part of that. Thank you for joining the conversation and joining us, and thank you to the many people who participated and helped to get the survey done and to analyse these findings.
The Youth2000 surveys have been around for nearly 20 years, or more than 20 years now, involving over 30,000 young people. We first surveyed high school students back in 2001 and then we did a large survey in 2019, which is the data we're sharing with you today. That included over 7,000 high school students from Auckland, Northland and Waikato districts. That's a little different from the previous surveys, which were national. We have done some work to calibrate that data to give population estimates for the whole country, but acknowledging there will be groups and specific regions where people have had challenges which are underrepresented in this survey, and Ministry of Social Development has funded a survey with Malatest which does pick up some national data, which should be providing some information about other regions now and from now.
In this most recent survey, over 7,000 high school and kura students and then 173 young people in alternative education or not employment or training. We ask them lots of questions on internet tablets in Te Reo Māori or in English and they can have headphones to tell the questions to them, and they answer mostly by point and click, although there are a few places where they can write some open text. It's completely anonymous, so we randomly select schools and then from the schools we randomly select the students and they do an anonymous survey asking them lots of areas.
Oranga Tamariki has commissioned us to do some reports using this data about young people who have been involved. The questions about Oranga Tamariki involvement are there in yellow, if you can read that: "Have you ever been involved with Oranga Tamariki (OT) or Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS)? Eg, someone was worried about your safety or care and protection." That's question one. So if people answer that, they're counted as ever having been involved if they say yes. Then the next question, "Are you still currently involved?" So, as Dan will show you in a moment, in total that's about 9% of high school students who have ever been involved in New Zealand.
Series of reports which we will share with you: some high‑level findings about home and housing, culture and identity, health and mental health, community and context, and youth voice, and we are also working on an additional report, takatāpui rainbow report, which Tatyana will lead some early comments from. The first five are all currently on the Oranga Tamariki website.
DAN ARCHER: We have only included young people who have responded to the questions about their involvement with Oranga Tamariki. We can see pretty consistent trends across demographics for those who have never been, ever been, and are currently, with some minor exceptions in ethnicities. For example, we see more Māori being involved with Oranga Tamariki and also more currently. Just as a note for the duration of the report, where we report other ethnicities and pākehā and other European, we have joined them together. There is not enough responses from those in other ethnicities to present with any kind of certainty, so we have joined them up just so that we are not missing anyone out.
DR TERRY FLEMING: We are seeing much higher rates of Māori young people reporting involvement with Oranga Tamariki, as you can see there. The other point to really notice on this slide is that the total numbers of people are quite small by the time you break down ethnicities currently involved with Oranga Tamariki and so on. You can see 17 Pacific young people, 15 other ethnicity groups and so on.
When we get to looking at differences between groups, we have to be really mindful that you are talking about relatively small numbers of people. The survey is really useful for getting a big picture of how people are doing overall, but it's less useful if you try and say, "Hmm, what would that mean for Tongan or Samoan?" or, "Exactly what's the difference between Asian and Pacific?" because the numbers are too small to make big conclusions based on that. Hence really we should be looking at the patterns rather than the detail of every small point.
The other thing to note there is this uses the New Zealand Ethnicity Prioritisation Reporting Method. If you used total ethnicity reporting, then you get about 11% Pacific and a couple more per cent of Asian and other and pākehā/European than is showing there because of the way that method works, which is standard in New Zealand analysis when we have people from multiple groups.
DAN ARCHER: When you look at the reports, you will see that we have been mindful of that and we have included, where relevant, total ethnic reporting where there are important differences between prioritised and total.
DR TERRY FLEMING: Alternative education and young people who are not in education, training or employment: smaller numbers, 169 of them in total. Much higher rates of being involved in Oranga Tamariki. Rather than 9%, it's nearly 40% ever and 7% currently involved.
The home and housing report looks at how people's family lives and housing situations are. These little blue slides at the start of each report give you the big picture, the key findings, if you don't like lots and lots of numbers.
The key findings in this one is that most of the young people in the survey, included those involved with Oranga Tamariki, report some pretty positive family relationships. At the same time, they're slightly less positive or slightly less high for those involved with Oranga Tamariki.
Then the other point, which is quite dramatic sometimes, is that those involved with Oranga Tamariki report much higher levels of housing and material deprivation.
Firstly, family relationships. I'll talk you through this first graph because they all follow the same pattern. This is the percentage of young people in each group. First set of bars is for feeling safe at home. The blue one is people who have never been involved with Oranga Tamariki in the Youth19 survey. Of those never involved, 94% said they feel safe at home. Looking at the other ones, 95% say they have a parent or at least one parent or person who acts as a parent who cares about them a lot, and just 77% a family member they can talk to about things that are worrying them. The exact wording of the questions and so on is in all the reports.
Then, just talking you through this one carefully, the next lot is the orange bar, people who have ever been involved. That is 9% of the young people. Could have been for care and protection; could have been for youth justice; could have been a one‑off, relatively brief intervention some years ago, or more intense. We don't know. It's ever. So you can see there quite a lot lower feeling safe at home, still most reporting parents care but nevertheless lower than our other group, and the same on family member to talk to.
Turning to our currently involved, our 2% or so, you've got some similar patterns here. Interesting, those currently involved with Oranga Tamariki ‑ that's a very small difference, we shouldn't overinterpret it but you can see it looks like slightly more likely to feel safe at home but less likely to report that a parent cares and in between here on a family member to talk to.
These are the kind of patterns we're seeing for lots of indicators, that many of the young people, often most of the young people in Oranga Tamariki are doing pretty well, but they're doing less well than our young people who were never involved. There are sometimes differences where those currently involved look worse off, but not always. That was kind of one of the surprising findings for me, that young people ever involved actually report quite challenging situations, so we need to be thinking about them too.
Going a bit more quickly now, looking at other kinds of aspects of family relationships, these come from Associate Professor Terryann Clarke's work about what's important for Māori, rangatahi Māori in particular: family member who respects what's important to you, family member who's got your back, get enough quality time with your family. Again you can see these same patterns, more than half reporting all of these good things but nevertheless some disparities from other groups, particularly getting enough quality time.
Turning to the deprivation, here you're seeing some really big differences. Here, looking at these blue lines, you can see they're very different from our orange and yellow. Housing deprivation, having ever had to sleep on the couch or share a bed or in a car in the last year because of housing costs, you can see that's actually relatively high for our never involved, 26%, but more than double for those ever and currently involved in Oranga Tamariki.
Even bigger differences for moving two or more times in the last year. Moving frequently is pretty disruptive for young people's family and friendship lives and very much for their schooling lives. That's a really big difference for those ever and currently involved. Then food insecurity, so parents worrying about money for food. Again, really big disparities, more than double, for our young people involved in Oranga Tamariki. The graph isn't showing it here ‑ it's in the report ‑ but if we look at severe housing deprivation, emergency housing, cars and vans, the more severe end, it is six times higher for those ever involved than those not involved.
If we turn to Māori ‑‑ we report for each indicator total population, never, ever, and currently involved, and then we break down for each ethnic group just never and ever involved. A lot of the time the patterns are very similar for each ethnic group but we're going to show you some of these and then encourage you to look at the reports for more. Tatyana's going to talk us through this one.
TATYANA KING‑FINAU: Most rangatahi Māori feel safe and connected with a parent and with their family. However, similar to the patterns that Terry was describing previously, this is lower for those involved with Oranga Tamariki. We can also see in the graph on the right that housing deprivation is higher for those rangatahi Māori involved with Oranga Tamariki with a quarter of them moving more than two‑plus times, which, as Terry described, is quite tough for young people to have to go through.
DAN ARCHER: Again, we're seeing very similar trends for Pasifika young people. A little bit more stability between those involved and not involved; however, once you look at the data we do still see those similar trends. Those trends exist for other ethnicities as well, the other two that we report: Asian young people, and remember we join pākehā, other European and other ethnicities together. The trends exist, the numbers shift slightly on the graph but for young people involved in Oranga Tamariki we do see that overall they do have a little bit of a tougher time in their housing and their home.
DR TERRY FLEMING: Turning to identity and culture, we looked at cultural connectedness, cultural knowledge and pride. This is an area where the Oranga Tamariki‑involved young people report some real strengths, sometimes looking like they have stronger connections than those not involved, although comfort in cultural settings changes for some. Here is the data for the total population. Of those never involved with Oranga Tamariki 86% report good knowledge of their culture, whereas you can see that's a bit higher for those ever and those currently involved. Being able to understand your language, similar patterns: as high or even higher for those involved. Proud of being from your culture, even stronger for those currently involved, whereas comfortable in your own cultural settings goes slightly the other way.
We've spent quite a lot of time unpacking that and talking that over with our Māori and Pacific leading(?) colleagues, Terryann Clarke, Sue Crengle and Jemaima Tiatia, who are part of our broader research group, as well as our small team. The positive interpretation of that would be that Oranga Tamariki would be doing a great job on some of those things. The more cynical or cautious interpretation might be that actually people who are more strongly connected to their culture, who are more clearly not pākehā, maybe have higher rates of being referred to Oranga Tamariki and higher rates of referrals being followed up, that kind of institutional racism discussion, and we know that those patterns are really important with Oranga Tamariki. There are other factors too, like where family life is hard your broader community connections and your identity might be stronger.
Feeling comfortable in your community settings is likely to be challenging when you're involved with Oranga Tamariki. That's one of the main reasons you're involved, because of things being difficult, so this wasn't so surprising, and there was a difference here for Māori students on that particular indicator.
TATYANA KING‑FINAU: Overall, most rangatahi Māori are knowledgeable and proud of their Māoritanga, as we can see in the knowledge of culture. For those who have never been involved, 93%, and ever, 96%. Proud of culture is also quite high with 85% and 86%. Just being mindful again of what Terry highlighted before about the deeper meaning of maybe what these numbers might mean.
BROOKE KURESA: Maintaining our Pacific cultural traditions, values and languages is really important, and for our youth that can be difficult because we are away from our homelands. We also know that a strong connection and understanding of culture can be a key determinant for wellbeing at times. We can see here that the majority of Pasifika students have knowledge and are proud of their culture. Students involved were more likely to speak and understand the language, but overall we can see that both show ‑‑ more than half at least have some kind of language comprehension, which is positive. As well, the majority feel comfortable in Pacific cultural settings, but this was more likely for those ever involved with Oranga Tamariki. Overall we can see that Pacific students involved and not involved with Oranga Tamariki maintain strong Pacific cultural connections, and being able to utilise and work with and alongside those cultural connections can be a key way to successfully engage with our Pasifika youth.
DAN ARCHER: Young Asian people see very similar results: very proud of their culture, very high level of understanding of their language, and knowledge, as well as knowing where their family comes from as well. They're comfortable in their social settings. It's the same story. We see quite high levels of cultural identity and acknowledgment and being part of your family.
For pākehā and other ethnicities it's very similar. We see high levels of cultural knowledge, good levels of understanding their language. You can imagine that once we start mixing pākehā people, European people, and other cultures ‑ we're talking about Middle Eastern, Latin, African‑American ‑ when we join them together it does get a bit ‑‑ we hide the results. I don't actually have the data but I suspect that when we compare those two groups, if we were to compare them individually, we would see quite stark differences. For pākehā and other ethnicities the biggest point of note is quite a big downtick in being proud of their culture for those who are involved, but otherwise we see that very consistent trend, high cultural identity and acknowledgment of their culture.
DR TERRY FLEMING: The health and mental health area is another where we've got really big distinctions and really big differences. The biggest disparities are in the areas around deprivation, material deprivation and housing, and also particularly in mental health.
Here's mental health. Firstly, good wellbeing, which is the WHO‑5 index. Those never involved, 91% report good or better emotional wellbeing. It's closer to half for our Oranga Tamariki‑involved young people.
Depressive symptoms. We use a scale that scores clinically significant depressive symptoms. If you score over the cut‑off on that, that indicates that you should have a clinical assessment, you're likely to benefit from some kind of intervention like a talking therapy or support, and you're likely to have a clinically identifiable disorder. It's an indicator of possible depression.
You can see for our never involved young people that is still quite high in Aotearoa New Zealand. We're actually seeing very high mental distress among our young people overall. That's nearly twice what it was 10 to 15 years ago, and that's a really important issue because our mental health and wellbeing services are only really funded to see 3% to 5% of people and we've got a lot of young people reporting distress. That's a really important issue. Then when you look at our young people ever and currently involved, you've got close to half reporting clinically significant symptoms of depression. Really important stuff.
Then you can see some similar patterns around thoughts of suicide, "Seriously thought of killing myself in the last year". I don't think any of us would think that nearly 20% is okay in our best‑off group, and 40%‑odd in our Oranga Tamariki‑involved group. It's really problematic and it means we must be actively thinking about mental health and wellbeing for Oranga Tamariki‑involved young people. We haven't shown it here but the attempted suicides is even more of a disparity, with near four times the rate of those involved in Oranga Tamariki compared to never involved. Really important area for action.
DAN ARCHER: We asked young people about their disabling conditions. We ask about chronic pain, "Do you have a disability?" and more importantly we ask if it affects them in their daily life. There's several reports on our website describing life for young people living with disabling conditions, but, importantly, these are people who report that the disabling condition affects them in their everyday life. These numbers are quite high for young people who are involved with Oranga Tamariki either in their past or currently, close to double that of young people who are not involved. I find that personally quite surprising. I don't know if Oranga Tamariki is aware of that or has specific practices for that, but it's something that is quite noteworthy going forwards in your policy.
We do have a high level of young people reporting a disabling condition that affects them in their everyday life, but we still have very high levels of having very good or excellent overall health. We asked people, "On a scale from poor to excellent, how is your overall health?" It's very positive to see that that doesn't really change across the groups. A little bit of fluctuation for those people who are ever involved, but positive to see that people still rate their overall health quite highly.
Access to healthcare. This is accessing a professional healthcare service in the past 12 months. Also lots of young people are accessing healthcare in the last 12 months. Pretty consistent, little bit of a decrease for those especially who are currently involved.
Where it is concerning is those young people who have forgone healthcare, so they've been unable to access healthcare when they've needed to in the last 12 months. Very high levels compared to those who have never been involved for both people who are ever involved and currently involved. That is something worth encouraging, enabling young people to have access to healthcare when they need it.
Finally, "Have you sought help from a GP, nurse or counsellor?" That's for your mental health. Good levels, double that for young people who have been involved in Oranga Tamariki. Something is going right there.
DR TERRY FLEMING: Also, just to jump in, if we say 40%‑plus have clinically significant depressive symptoms, nearly half of them aren't seeking help.
DAN ARCHER: Yes, so keep doing that, keep helping young people to get access to professional services for their mental health and all health conditions because, as we know, accessing healthcare is difficult. We have a lack of healthcare providers, especially for mental health. There is a stigma involved with that.
DR TERRY FLEMING: When we look at healthcare by ethnicity, the patterns overall are similar with these disparities for those involved with Oranga Tamariki. Here's an example, this time for Asian students. You can see the same pattern: nearly twice as many disabling conditions, nearly twice as much depressive symptoms, and also really high rates of foregone healthcare, not being able to get healthcare when you need it.
DAN ARCHER: This is questions about the broader context of young people's life. What do they do in their community? What is their substance use? This also includes their school life.
We asked a series of questions about school life. Young people overall feel connected and part of their school, even higher for those people who are currently involved but overall it's a fairly similar trend for young people. They also feel like adults, not necessarily teachers but adults at their school, do care, although we do see a slight decrease, as you can see, for those people who are ever involved. Being cared for in your school is an important marker for your success. If people don't care for you at school you are going to feel disconnected and not your best, not eager to continue.
DR TERRY FLEMING: This one's tricky. It's actually community activities. This one is looking after others at home regularly. Young people in Oranga Tamariki care or involved with Oranga Tamariki are reporting much higher rates of looking after other people at home, reasonably similar rates of volunteering or helping others outside the family in your community, and lower rates of having a job, a paid job in the last year.
Over to Tatyana to share results about takatāpui and rainbow young people, which is work in progress.
DAN ARCHER: Tatyana and I are going to break this up. We decided after looking at the results that takatāpui and rainbow young people needed a little bit of a specific report, so we've been working on this since December/January. It's getting there, it's nearly ready. There's a lot of information in there.
Overall, takatāpui and rainbow young people face ‑‑ they have a pretty tough time, they face high disparities in a number of their areas. How did we ask that? We have a series of branching questions. If you answer the question in an appropriate way, we asked how people describe themselves. If young people responded in any of those ways, they were marked as gender diverse. For the purposes of these results, we're not including people who are not sure or don't understand the question. Further on in the report we will compare those people to cis and heterosexual people.
If we go to the next slide, we also look at same‑sex or multiple‑sex attracted people. We asked people who they are attracted to. If they responded to being attracted to the opposite sex, they were heterosexual. If they responded as being attracted to the same sex or both males and females, they were included in the same‑sex/multiple‑sex.
We had 782 young people who identified as takatāpui and rainbow. 14% have ever been involved with Oranga Tamariki. That's quite high compared to the rest of the population, 9% I think it was. That involvement rate is consistent across demographics except we see a much higher level of Māori takatāpui involvement than other ethnicities. We break down further and we detail these people in the report. We had 123 gender diverse people and 20% of those have ever been involved; higher again for gender diverse people. 722 same‑sex/multiple‑sex attracted participants, 13% of those have been involved. When we compare that to cis-hetero people, we see that both of those populations are much higher than the rest of our participants.
TATYANA KING‑FINAU: Overall, our rainbow young people have had quite high needs across all areas of mental health, which is even more apparent in those who have ever been involved in Oranga Tamariki, which I think really highlights that our rainbow young people are needing more support.
DAN ARCHER: When we compare that ‑‑ you can see in the next slide we've just put this as a comparison to all participants' mental health. Emotional wellbeing is half that of our all participants if you're takatāpui and rainbow. Much higher levels of depressive symptoms. Thoughts of suicide: nearly two in three people are having thoughts of suicide if you are takatāpui and rainbow, so these are alarming levels and we should really be aware of this.
On a positive note, we've still got high levels of good or excellent overall health for takatāpui and rainbow young people.
Home and housing. We're seeing ‑‑ again, the comparisons are the same: much higher levels of housing deprivation than the rest of our participants. 60% of people have suffered some kind of housing deprivation. This is an important marker, I thought: 30% of young takatāpui and rainbow people who are involved with Oranga Tamariki are living away from their parents, living away from their family, which is much higher than cis‑hetero young people. Parents care for those who are never involved, but much lower for those who have ever been involved. But friendships with friends, connectedness with friends is still high for all of the markers we look at. Takatāpui and rainbow young people have got good connectedness with their friends, which is very positive.
DR TERRY FLEMING: Just to note, in case it's a bit confusing, for each group we're comparing those involved and not involved. The blue is takatāpui and rainbow people never involved, compared to the orange, takatāpui and rainbow people currently involved. Our primary comparisons are within the same group but comparing involved and not involved.
DAN ARCHER: When the report is released we include breakdowns for the collective takatāpui and rainbow group, gender diverse young people, same‑sex/multiple‑sex attracted and cis‑hetero young people, so you can get a feel for how these people are doing.
Then, finally, community and contexts. We see a decrease of feeling a part of school for those who are ever involved, takatāpui and rainbow young people. Much higher levels of being bullied. Much, much higher levels of unwanted sexual behaviour, that's sexual harm/sexual advances that are unwelcome. But on a positive note, much higher levels of helping other people in their communities.
DR TERRY FLEMING: Changing focus again for the last of the reports today, we had open text questions for young people. Mostly they were doing the surveys sitting in a large room like a school hall, with their own little internet tablet and spaced apart for privacy. They generously spent time typing in some quite amazing open text responses.
We looked at those open text responses for those currently involved in Oranga Tamariki. The overall key themes across the questions that we had, the various questions, were really strongly about wanting support, connections, togetherness, love. That is the strongest theme across all the questions: love and connection, safety, having a say and being treated fairly. There are also some strong themes about basic material resources: being warm, having enough food, having a place to stay. Then another theme of actually wanting to be part of the solution, wanting to help others, to give help and also receive help when things go wrong.
TATYANA KING‑FINAU: Young people were asked, "If you could change one thing to make your home or family life better, what would it be?" and one of the main things that these young people wanted was to be with family again and have whānau under the same roof. There was also a need for safety, connection and harmony. That was also important to these young people. Things like being honest with each other, supporting each other, celebrating each other and getting along, and spending more time together.
Also, these young people were wanting to have their basic human needs met, things like shelter, electricity, transport, and quite a few young people also felt that they needed to take on additional responsibilities to meet these needs, as is highlighted in that last quote that was there.
DR TERRY FLEMING: I thought those things were quite astonishing in the discussion from young people, how many thought ‑‑ they're school students thinking that they would be helping to pay for rent and Wi‑Fi and so on.
BROOKE KURESA: We also asked students, "If you could change one thing about your school or course, what would it be?" You can see there the main kinds of things we got was, "Be fair and teach me", and, "I want to feel safe and be warm and fed". The main responses that emerged were students wanting to learn without being put down or discouraged by teachers and peers, and students are really wanting to learn. What they're asking for is a safe and fair environment where they're getting fully supported, being taught fairly in a way that encourages learning and that they can understand. As well, not having to go without those necessities like food, uniforms and feeling safe, so getting that kind of holistic support. Now Terry's going to talk to ‑‑
DR TERRY FLEMING: Yeah. Again, for me these were quite extraordinary and powerful. I would like to think that when young people have Oranga Tamariki involvement they're often going to have challenging lives at home, and this highlighted how challenging their lives at school are as well, actually. Feeling treated unfairly, feeling targeted. A few of them talked about changing schools a lot because of them moving, one presumes, and these basic kinds of needs about being fed, dry and warm.
We also asked about what would help, "What is one thing that would help young people you know who have a hard time?" I think this is the strongest theme right through from this specific young woman, 14 years or under: "Food and just seeing that some people care for them". I feel like our young people shouldn't have to ask for that, right? "Their whānau", a young person in alternative education or NEETS saying. Then quite a lot of people wanting to help. This Māori young woman, "To come and have a talk, maybe I could even help". A Pacific young woman, "I should ask them if they are OK, I should help them for good". And here a young Māori girl, "It hurts, it really feels like you are nothing and I just want to make people feel like they've got a reason to live".
Then these are the comments about people to help you. Talking to your family. "More school counsellors, counsellors that are actually useful", says a trans, gender diverse or gender questioning young person. "I just want them to know they are not alone". Those two quotes from our trans or gender diverse or gender questioning young people, but also reflecting others' comments.
The last question was, "What should be changed to support young people in Aotearoa New Zealand better?" The themes are consistent: love and understanding. We can see here, "Less abuse, hate. More love, kindness". "Making sure everyone have friends". "Help change people's bad lives to the new life". "Money, so they can go to school".
That's a whirlwind of some intense information and responses. I would like to acknowledge the strength, the honesty, the openness and the challenges expressed by the young people who participated in the survey and those very human responses. I'd also really like to acknowledge that, to focus on the efforts and the strengths. Although we're talking about inequities and challenges, we're also seeing young people doing incredibly well and working incredibly hard, and I would like to acknowledge those young people who are offering to support each other, who are reaching out, who know what they want, who know what they need, who want to be part of the solutions and want to change things.
Our very big picture summary is that young people currently and ever involved in Oranga Tamariki face multiple inequities: poverty, deprivation in terms of family life, in terms of health and wellbeing, in terms of schooling, in terms of future hopes. They want stronger family connections, basic rights that they shouldn't have to ask for, safety, support and to help others.
We're not the policy decision‑makers, we're presenting the survey data here, but we can really clearly see that this is not a single agency's job. Lots of the challenge here and mahi will rest with Oranga Tamariki but it also rests with schools, with health services, with communities and with all of us having an opportunity to make a difference.