ANZASW Statement: Response to Te Kuku O Te Manawa Part 2
ANZASW is today pleased to respond to the second report (two of two) from the Children’s Commissioner. This second report Te Kuku O Te Manawa: Moe ararā! Haumanutia ngā moemoeā a ngā tūpuna mō te oranga o ngā tamariki follows the first report Te Kuku O Te Manawa: Ka puta te riri, ka momori te ngākau, ka heke ngā roimata mo tōku pēpi, which was released June 8 this year. The reports come as a response to ongoing concerns for the treatment of and services available to pēpi Māori in Aotearoa. The reports look to answer the question of what needs to change to enable pēpi Māori aged 0-3 months to remain in the care of their whānau in situations where Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children is notified of care and protection concerns. ANZASW’s response to the first part of the report can be found here: https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU2006/S00166/anzasw-update.htm
The report acknowledges the complex social-political space in which care and protection services sit and is mindful that issues of inequality such as the health, education and justice systems are linked to increased stress and therefore heightened risk of child abuse and neglect that is often associated with these stresses. While the report highlights that addressing such inequalities would dramatically improve the rates of child abuse and neglect, these issues fall outside the scope of this particular report.
ANZASW congratulates the Office of the Childrens Commissioner for this in-depth report and supports the key recommendation of the report for a fundamentally new approach and a transitional change to a by Māori for Māori framework. Such an approach would see the transition of responsibility, resources and power from the state to the appropriate Māori entities as determined by Māori. This recommendation comes with the understanding that Māori are best positioned to develop and implement frameworks that deliver the best and most enduring outcomes for tamariki Māori.
The report acknowledges that such a transition will take time and it has therefore made several recommendations on actions that can be taken immediately to improve the delivery and outcomes for tamariki Māori. The report emphasizes that these recommendations are not destinations, and on their own are not enough. However, they do provide the direction and guidance needed to keep tamariki safe in the intervening time.
ANZASW is somewhat disappointed to see the lack of acknowledgment around the complexity, breadth and depth of social work in Aotearoa and feels that social work has been portrayed as limited to statutory care and protection. A reader could reasonably believe that all social work practice is harmful however the majority of our members are competent ethical practitioners who care deeply about what they do.
We are however encouraged to hear of the improvements and changes that have been made so far within Oranga Tamariki. The report highlights that there are accounts from Oranga Tamariki staff that they are beginning to work differently. Many reported the positive effects of recent management changes. They described managers who are open to new ways of engaging and supporting whānau, encouraging close working relationships with whānau, hapū and iwi, and actively supporting staff to navigate complex policy and practice requirements.
Oranga Tamariki staff also gave examples of working intensively with mums and their pēpi, investing time and resources early on, developing respectful relationships with whānau, hapū and iwi, then consulting and working alongside them over a period of weeks or months.
We still hear of social workers with excessive caseloads which results in little time to develop meaningful relationships with whānau or understand the context of the family whānau they are working with. Combined with inconsistent access to professional and critically reflective supervision compromises the ability of social workers to be their professional best. We therefore agree with the recommendation that social work caseloads must be set at a level that enables social workers to develop and maintain relationships with family whānau.
ANZASW does not support poor, unethical, or unsafe practice. It is however acknowledged that in the care and protection space social workers are “damned if they do uplift and damned if they don’t uplift”, and a pēpi is harmed. Sadly, many New Zealanders are unaware of the complexity of the family whānau that social workers are working with on a daily basis or the fact that New Zealand has one of the highest rates of child abuse and abuse related deaths in the OECD. We acknowledge the many social workers who are so often unheralded for the care and compassion shown when they work with family whānau to create a better future for all.
ANZASW supports the call for legislative and statutory social work practice changes and the transformative changes outlined in this report. We look forward to seeing dramatic improvements of services and care provided to tamariki Māori and their whānau.
A full copy of the report can be found at the following link: https://www.occ.org.nz/assets/Uploads/Te-Kuku-O-Te-Manawa-Report-2-OCC.pdf