Child uplift due to 'incompetence' - Tracey Martin

Minister for Children Tracey Martin says the controversial attempted uplift of a Hastings new born in May was due to "incompetence".

The Section 78 uplift was the subject of an investigative documentary by Newsroom earlier this year. It ended with Oranga Tamariki staff isolating a young mother from her family, cornering her in her hospital bed and attempting to take her baby.

However an internal investigation into the incident revealed a slew of mistakes in the process, for which Oranga Tamariki has admitted it is entirely at fault.

Appearing on Newshub Nation on Saturday, Martin says a review into the case showed failings by the staff involved.

"What came to light in this review was that the practice standards that should have been applied were not applied by the particular social worker in this case," she told host Simon Shepherd.

As a result, Oranga Tamariki's CEO says "a number of people" have been held accountable.

"There have been significant consequences - I think the public understands what that means, there are employment issues, there are processes happening, I don't think that's modern-day code," Grainne Moss told The AM Show on Friday.

Martin says the review of this case in Hastings is just one case, and not representative of other similar cases.

"What we've had, as part of the Chief Social Worker's Office, there is a practice review there," she says.

"Of the 300-odd Section 78s, they've taken 153 and gone through those to date, and they have found no other case like this case."

The attempted uplift was done under Section 78 of the Oranga Tamariki Act. This allows ex parte 'without notice' uplifts, where the family isn't informed.

As a result of the review, unless there is a clear need for action to protect a child from immediate and imminent danger, all interim custody order applications will be made 'on notice' to ensure the family is given the opportunity to have their say before a judge makes a final decision.

Martin says part of the problems with the uplifts come from the under-resourcing of the Family Court, which can take too long to deliver its decisions.

"Part of this [is] happening because the Family Court's actually taking too long," she said.

"Oranga Tamariki is only one part of a system, and if the Family Court, when we want to do an order with notice, if that's three to six months, and you have high concerns for a baby, it's one of the consequences of the Family Court delay that our social workers are using a Section 78 without notice too often."

Some Māori have been calling for Oranga Tamariki to be scrapped completely, to have a 'by Māori, for Māori model'. However Martin says this isn't practical.

"First of all, there's not just Māori inside the child care and protection system, so that's the first thing," she says.

"[Secondly] I couldn't shut down Oranga Tamariki tomorrow and leave all these children waiting while we set up an independent Māori organization.

"And iwi are coming to me. I've had iwi representatives say, 'We don't want to do Oranga Tamariki's work,' because there's a hard end piece of this work that they don't have the capacity and resourcing to do. So we have to help them build that capacity."