New child and youth protection Bill challenged

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

The Green Party has challenged Anne Tolley’s plans to introduce more reforms to the care and protection of children and youth. This follows a claim lodged by the Māori Women's Welfare to the Waitangi Tribunal, challenging the policy changes.

New reforms to improve the lives of vulnerable children and youth were introduced to parliament today. However, Green Party MP Jan Logie has raised questions.

Green Party spokesperson for Social Development asked the Social Development Minister Anne Tolley, “In the cabinet papers the provisions that explicitly talks about removing and changing provisions to the whānau, hapū and iwi parts of the act, have any of those changes been included in this bill?”

Tolley responded with, “The proposals will also amend the purposes and principals of the Act to give explicit recognition to key Māori concepts of mana, tamariki, whakapapa and whanaungatanga when working with tamariki Māori.”

This issue arose following a claim lodged by the Māori Women’s Welfare League with the Waitangi Tribunal. The Welfare League says the policy changes exclude priority of placement within whanau, hapū and iwi, and is in breach of the Treaty.

When asked, “If the Waitangi Tribunal agrees to consider the claim, will she delay the bill to ensure that the reforms do not breach the government’s obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi?” Tolley responded by saying, “Mr Speaker I've tabled the bill in the house today.” 

The bill includes the establishment of an information-sharing framework to keep vulnerable children and young people safe from harm. It also allows young people to remain in care or return to care up until the age of 21, with transition support and advice available up to 25.

“There is a list of things that have to be taken into account and they include, where ever possible the relationship between the child and young person and their family, whānau and usual caregiver is respected, supported and strengthened,” says Tolley.

The new department named the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki will launch by April 2017.