Row over name of Govt's newest ministry

Anne Tolley is currently the Social Development Minister (Simon Wong / Newshub.)
Anne Tolley is currently the Social Development Minister (Simon Wong / Newshub.)

The country's newest government ministry hasn't even been formed yet and it is already being criticised for doing a disservice to the children it is meant to be protecting.

The Government officially announced the name of the new stand-alone department - The Ministry for Vulnerable Children - with Anne Tolley to be its minister.

The Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki will replace Child, Youth and Family (CYF), and solely focus on improving the lot of the country's children.

Ms Tolley will assume her new portfolio in April 2017.

The new ministry will also have a new chief executive and will be a "single point of accountability", Ms Tolley says.

But the name has already raised the ire of Opposition parties and also the new Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft who say it "stigmatises" the kids it is meant to help.

But Ms Tolley says the new name, particularly the translation of the Maori name, is "aspirational".

"[It] reinforces our clear expectation that much more needs to be done to address the fact that six out of 10 kids in care are Maori. In this context 'Oranga Tamariki' means 'health or wellbeing of children'."

She says it is more than just a rebranding exercise.

"It is how this ministry performs, rather than its name, which will make a difference for vulnerable young people. It will also require strong leadership to implement the massive changes required over the next four to five years, as well as embed the necessary culture change within staff."

Labour's spokesperson for children Jacinda Ardern says the "narrow focus" of the ministry will "ignore children who don't meet National's limited 'vulnerability' criteria".

Both Labour and the Green Party say the new ministry should instead be called simply the Ministry for Children.

"Many children and families go through tough times and may need some extra support. Vulnerability is not a static, immovable and unchangeable thing," Greens social development spokesperson Jan Logie says.

"A broad safety net is needed, and a Ministry of Vulnerable Children is only going to assist those at the very bottom of the heap."

Prime Minister John Key says the purpose of the new ministry needs to be "very clearly spelled out".

"If you don't call it what it is, then you run the risk it loses its focus and spends focus and time away from those in need."