A beginner’s guide to the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki

April 1 2017 marked a turning point for everyone in New Zealand’s caregiving community. Child, Youth and Family was replaced by the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki.

The changes have been hotly debated – both in Parliament and the community. But everyone agrees, we need to do something to help improve the lives of our most vulnerable children.

So what is actually changing on the ground, and what does it mean for caregiving families?

To help explain – we’ve got a beginner’s guide to the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, or MVCOT.

What is actually happening?

CEO of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, Gráinne Moss and the Hon Anne Tolley

On April 1, Child Youth and Family was replaced by the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki.

As well as a new name there’s a new boss, Gráinne Moss, and a new organisational structure.

Mrs Moss said “we’re at the start of a massive shift to transform the whole way we care for and protect kids, and that needs to involve every community.”

The changes follow a decision by Social Development Minister Anne Tolley to rebuild what she called “a broken system” from the ground up.

What changes came into effect on April 1?

Aside from the name change there are three big changes we have been told about:

  1. The age of care and protection has been raised to include 17-year-olds, with those no longer in care on 1 April having the ability to opt back in until they turn 18. Caregivers will receive financial and other assistance for 17 year olds.
  2. The launch of an independent connection and advocacy agency, VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai. It has an interactive website and will have local connection events to give care-experienced children and young people a community to belong to.
  3. The new structure at Oranga Tamariki features a new role – Deputy Chief Executive of Care. This is exciting for us because it means we hope to have a new voice – focused on our needs – at the top table.

Members of the Minister’s Youth Advisory Panel pose with the new CEO of Oranga Tamariki Gráinne Moss, Social Development Minister Hon Anne Tolley, and Prime Minister Bill English

Are events planned to explain the changes in my area?

Officials say their priority is to ensure a smooth transition so they continue to provide a high level of care. But, your local offices will be sharing information about the changes in the weeks and months ahead.

Fostering Kids NZ will continue to share new information with you as soon as it becomes available here and on our Facebook page.

What else is on the table?

April 1 marked a milestone in an ongoing process that will take four or five years to complete. The aim is to transform the way we support vulnerable children and young people to get the services they need.

The Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki, Gráinne Moss said “we’re testing ideas, discarding what doesn’t work and applying what we learn to the next stage of design and rollout. We are debating issues and hearing different perspectives.”

The hope is that increased visibility and access to a child-centred feedback and complaints service will make it easier for those involved to give feedback or make a complaint. The feedback and complaints process will also be available to caregivers.  Officials have begun work with Fostering Kids NZ and other groups to ensure the process meets caregivers’ needs.

A second phase of the law changes, currently being considered by Parliament, includes a proposal to extend the age of support for young people in care to age 21, and in some instances 25.

National care standards are being developed to outline the quality of care children and young people can expect from their care experience. A draft set has been developed, following wide consultation with young people, caregivers, social workers, providers and whānau. The team looked at how international best practice could be applied in New Zealand. The standards provide a framework so that caregivers get the training and support they need to provide the stable, loving care our children need.

Fostering Kids NZ is working with officials to develop a plan for 24/7 crisis support for caregivers. We’ve also recommended a higher skills allowance is paid to caregivers who gain further skills by completing training. We’re also working together on developing training pathways, including NZQA recognised qualifications. You can learn more about how we’re advocating on your behalf in Wellington here.

The Wellington launch of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki

Our CEO Linda Surtees (centre) with Fostering Kids NZ team members Rob Surtees and Sally Moffatt at the launch of VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai

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