Anne Tolley: Complete overhaul of care system starts today
OPINION: It's been nearly a year since I announced the Government would undertake a complete overhaul of our care and protection system.
The independent expert panel's report made it very clear that the system supposed to protect our most vulnerable children and young people was broken.
The young people on my Youth Advisory Panel have told me time and time again that more than anything they want a loving, stable place to call home.
Today we're officially launching the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki.
The Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki is a single point of accountability for children at risk and will focus on five core services - prevention, intensive intervention, care support, youth justice and support to transition into adulthood.
We've already made a number of changes to support the new Ministry. Young people can now remain in care and, even if not in care, receive significant support right up until their 18th birthday. Children and young people will also have a say in decisions made about them and will have access to a new independent advocacy service called VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai.
A second set of legislative reforms is also currently before Parliament. This legislation is vital as it unapologetically places our children and young people at the heart of everything we do.
The changes we're proposing will ensure children and young people are placed with loving families – preferably their own – at the earliest opportunity and that these placement decisions take into account their safety, best interests and views.
All this marks the start of a shift away from a system focused on just managing a crisis to one which provides early support to help keep families together. It's a major step in what will be a four to five year transformation of how we care for and protect our most vulnerable children and families.
As I've said from day one, we've had too many restructures, knee jerk changes and attempts at tinkering around the edges. If we're going to get this right – and we have to – we cannot rush it and we cannot do it alone. It's going to take all of us – Government, non-government organisations, iwi, caregivers, communities, families and young people to make this overhaul work.
We have to put our most vulnerable children and young people at the heart of everything we do. And we have to do everything we can to give them a safe, stable and loving home so they can live happy, successful lives. It's what they've asked for, and it's the very least they deserve.
- The Dominion Post