Oranga Tamariki residential restraint practices must be urgently reviewed

ANZASW is appalled and disturbed by the footage of which appear to be assaults on children in Oranga Tamariki’s care. These assaults appear to be unprovoked and are entirely unacceptable.  Restraints on children in care should only be used when there is a serious risk of serious injury or death.  ANZASW is pleased to hear that Oranga Tamariki and the Police are undertaking a joint investigation under the Child Protection Protocol.

Those in residential care (whether care and protection or youth justice) are some of the most complex children and young people Oranga Tamariki work with. It is imperative that Oranga Tamariki has suitably trained and skilled staff to provide the high levels of safe, reparative care these children and young people desperately require. ANZASW calls on Oranga Tamariki to undertake a review of their staffing, including levels of training, and procedures and policies relating to restraints. There must be a review of every restraint incident by a senior manager (preferably a social work trained manager) to ensure correct processes and policies are followed.

ANZASW is aware that Oranga Tamariki are employing greater numbers of youth workers, who do not hold the same level of qualifications or experience as social workers. ANZASW’s view is that it is appropriate for Oranga Tamariki to employ youth workers within their residences as this work is primarily care work. However, these youth workers must have sufficient induction, ongoing training, support, and supervision to ensure the care they are providing meets the necessary standards.

ANZASW disagrees with the implication from the Newsroom article that social workers should be the primary employees within residences, as this is not the primary role of social workers. Social workers undertake psychosocial assessments, analysis, and interventions. It would be more appropriate for Oranga Tamariki to ensure a certain ratio of social workers are working at each residence during every shift. Social workers would be able to support to de-escalate situations and provide interventions as and when they are required.

Oranga Tamariki must urgently undertake a comprehensive review into residential care to ensure there is sufficient safeguards and appropriate staffing to provide the necessary level of care.

We commend the social worker who has bravely blown the whistle on this behaviour. ANZASW is concerned that Oranga Tamariki does not appear to have sufficient whistleblowing policies as this social worker feared losing their job. ANZASW urgently calls on Oranga Tamariki to establish whistleblowing processes and policies to protect those who raise concerns. This mechanism must sit outside of Oranga Tamariki to protect those whistle-blowers.

ANZASW is happy to support any of its social work members in raising concerns about any practices of concern. To do so, please contact Braden Clark, Kaiwhakahaere Chief Executive, on bradenc@anzasw.nz

One comment

  • Nathan Jaquiery

    Kia ora ANZASW, thank you for responding to this extremely concerning report by Newsroom, and as you mentioned, extremely brave measures taken by the whistleblower. There needs to be a cultural shift within residential environments in both Care and Protection and Youth Justice facilities throughout Aotearoa. I am aware about one Care and Protection residence that has adopted a trauma informed approach in supporting children and young people in a more therapeutic environment rather than that top down, authoritative, punishment orientated responses that we see exhibited in these accounts (newsroom report). This particular residence wiht a more therapeutic response, is much smaller than the larger examples and has developed extremely effective processes of engaging with whanau, other agencies and front line social work staff. A Wraparound model of support services provides holistic care to meet the children’s/young persons needs and the work is based around a relational approach in order to re-establish attachments that may have previously been severed. A relational response is critical in all of our residences, where empathy, love, compassion, patience, thoughtfulness, honesty and trustworthiness are the foundations of the service, not an authoritative one.

    Oranga Tamariki need to take this extremely seriously, as well as fully investigate other incidents (which I believe this is only the tip of the iceberg) which have occurred, be transparent with the community and be more accountable. This culture has to change, because of the nature of the child/young person/client, which is that they are vulnerable and they have already been through significant forms of abuse and trauma. This culture has to change!!!!

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