Political parties, state care survivors worried by Oranga Tamariki oversight legislation

A new report says proposed changes to Oranga Tamariki risk increasing child abuse and sweeping it under the carpet.

The Bill is currently making its way through Parliament despite widespread opposition and the report authors are urging the Government to halt its progress, and listen to state care survivors.

"Thirty-nine young people took their own lives between 2017 and 2021 while in the care of the state," Ihorangi Reweti-Peters, a state care survivor, said during Youth Parliament last month.

He got support from fellow youth MPs after calling for politicians to fix a system he said is failing young people like him.

The Government's looking to pass legislation to improve the monitoring of Oranga Tamariki, but Reweti-Peters said "it's placing the monitor inside a government department", the Education Review Office. It's his opinion that "is not independent from government".

A new report says the proposed changes risk increasing harm to children.

"The Government is taking away two of the most fundamental functions. One, monitoring of Oranga Tamariki and two, investigations of complaints about Oranga Tamariki," said author David King.

King wasn't in state care, but was abused as a child. His school failed to pick it up.

"Through monitoring of what's going on, the system can be improved, and the sorts of things that happened to me and happened to so many others, can not happen again."

He said that monitoring must be done by an independent figure who the 6500 vulnerable young people in state care can trust.

Parties across the political spectrum agree.

"All this bill is going to do is destroy the trust that our youth have currently with the Children's Commissioner," said ACT's Karen Chhour. 

Labour is the only party in support of the Oranga Tamariki Oversight Bill and is able to pass it due to its parliamentary majority. The report authors say the Government should halt the Bill and listen to the most vulnerable it's designed to protect.

"Labour is prepared to misuse their parliamentary majority and ignore the will of the people, and I find that concerning," said National deputy leader Nicola Willis.

But Labour's Kelvin Davis said: "We believe it will give Oranga Tamariki the oversight that it needs".

Next, the Bill will be debated by Parliament - a debate that's likely to be lengthy.