Oranga Tamariki confident Budget will deliver 'hundreds' more social workers

The head of Oranga Tamariki is hoping for enough money in the upcoming Budget to hire hundreds more social workers.

The organisation, which took over from Child, Youth and Family in 2017, is about to undergo significant changes, chief executive Grainne Moss told The AM Show on Friday.

"We will now be funded to provide a transition service for teenagers that are moving to independence," she explained.

"One of the big things in New Zealand is we do see an intergenerational cycle - one family member has ended up in care, then they have kids that end up in care. How do you break that cycle?"

At particular risk are teenagers who are cast adrift once they turn 17, says Moss.

"Our kids keep coming back to us way past 17 - they break up with the boyfriend,they have trouble with the landlord - they need help for much longer. The great thing about the change is we'll have to provide support potentially up to the age of 25."

And to fund this, Moss is hoping for massive funding injection in what the Government's promising will have a focus on 'wellbeing'.

"Reducing child poverty and improving child wellbeing, including addressing family violence," are some of the aims the Government has for the Budget, in addition to the usual goals of increasing GDP and keeping the economy ticking along.

Moss is sure the money will come.

"The Government are very committed, the legislation is there... I'm really confident that what we provide will be the right thing."

Moss says there are about 600 kids Oranga Tamariki is handling in that late-teens risk group, so "a couple of hundred" more social workers would be "lovely". The organisation currently has about 1600 frontline social workers.

Grainne Moss.
Grainne Moss. Photo credit: The AM Show

But fixing New Zealand's endemic child abuse, much of which is committed against toddlers, will take more than a 'wellbeing' Budget to fix.

There were more than 300 cases of neglect or abuse reported to Oranga Tamariki in the six months to December 2018, the abusers including parents, adult family members, siblings and even Oranga Tamariki staff members.

On average, a Kiwi child dies as a result of abuse every five weeks - most of them under one.

"It's going to take a long time - it could be 10, 15, 20, 30 years. We're talking about a whole generational change. This has been a problem for a long time."

Newshub has approached Children's Minister Tracey Martin for comment.