Calls for independent watchdog for Oranga Tamariki

NZ Herald 2 November 2017
Family First Comment: Com’on new Government. Do the right thing for families.

A Whanganui family’s story about how their 8-week-old-baby was taken from them after a social worker thought she smelled cannabis is sparking national attention.

Family First New Zealand is calling for a fully independent complaints authority as a watchdog on the state agency Ministry of Vulnerable Children (Oranga Tamariki).

In the Chronicle‘s story on Wednesday parents Freyja and Laurence Maisey spoke out about how they were falsely accused of being druggies and had their baby boy taken from them with no warning and no explanation.

National director of Family First NZ Bob McCoskrie said the family’s experience has again brought this issue to the fore.”

We must have a mechanism that ensures two things – that families who have been notified to the new ministry as being at-risk are actually monitored in an appropriate way, but also to prevent abuse of families by the State.”

He said the police have an independent complaints authority – the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) and this was the type of watchdog needed for Oranga Tamariki.

“Both the Greens and NZ First support an independent agency with the Greens rightly saying that there is a lot of potential for things to go wrong in child protection and, just like the police, there really does need to be independent oversight.”

But he said the success of any complaints authority would depend on its independence.

“It must have legislative independence, operational independence, and the perception of independence, similar to the IPCA.”

Mr McCoskrie said it would also be in the best interest of social workers because it would provide an independent body to ensure appropriate policy and procedures have been followed.

“This will result in public confidence and accountability for actions and decisions by social workers.”

A poll in 2011 found 65 per cent supported the need for an independent watchdog for Child Youth and Family, while 20 per cent were opposed.
READ MORE: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11939264

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