Annual report 2016 cover

Working differently to better identify, support and protect the most vulnerable children and young people in our society

Too many children have a childhood in which they need our help to be safe so that they can thrive, belong and achieve. The Investing in New Zealand’s Children and their Families report identified a fundamentally new approach that would help give children the best start in life. Our work to support and implement the Government’s response to the report is described in the Adapting to transformational change section.

While supporting these reforms has been a key focus during the year, we have continued to work with the wider social sector to enhance the way we identify, support and protect vulnerable children and young people.

Implementing enhancements to the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989

In 2015/2016 we undertook a significant programme of work to prepare for implementation from 1 July 2016 of amendments to the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989. These changes to policy, processes and the way in which staff work with children, young people, family/whānau and agency partners mark a major overhaul in strengthening our child protection system.

The changes reduce vulnerability by providing better support to children and young people, whānau and caregivers, and by minimising the risk of future harm posed by those who have seriously abused children in the past. They include providing financial and other assistance, through a Permanent Caregivers Support Service, to caregivers of children and young people who have left the custody of the Chief Executive.

A new special guardianship order provides an alternative means of securing the permanent placement of a child who requires out-of-home care, where the ongoing role of the guardian is based on what is best for the child.

These provisions support a more individualised response to each child’s and young person’s situation.

We began providing increased advice and assistance to young people aged between 15 and 20 years who are preparing to leave, or who have left, statutory care, to support them to become and remain living independently.

The family group conference (FGC) planning and review process has also been strengthened to increase the focus on the child’s needs. This includes aligning FGC plans with court plans.

Working with Māori and Pacific communities

Achieving better outcomes for Māori and Pacific children is critical to reducing vulnerability in society.

We have worked with iwi partners (Ngāpuhi, Tainui, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Toa) on the five formal Memoranda of Understanding, and refreshed Joint Service Delivery Plans with iwi to focus on the future direction signalled in the Investing in New Zealand’s Children and their Families report. These relationships focus on:

  • supporting joint project design
  • improving testing, learning and delivery, particularly in the areas of supporting family group conferences
  • enhancing partnered response pathways
  • supporting caregiver training
  • ensuring mokopuna feel supported and ready to transition from care
  • providing connection to whānau, hapū and iwi through whakapapa knowledge, engagement with marae and hapū communities and the exploration of cultural identity.

In addition, a Pacific cultural framework, Va’aifetu, was launched and piloted in five Child, Youth and Family (CYF) sites. The strategy was developed as part of CYF’s Pacific Action Plan O Au O Matua Fanau Children are our Treasures, following national consultation with Pacific communities.

Working with the Children’s Action Plan Directorate

We are a part of a cross-agency programme that is responsible for meeting the needs of children who do not require statutory intervention from Child, Youth and Family.

We currently host the Children’s Action Plan Directorate, which is changing how government agencies, non-government organisations and iwi work together to identify, support and protect vulnerable children.

A key element of the Children’s Action Plan is the implementation of Children’s Teams, which are made up of skilled frontline practitioners and professionals from the health, justice, education and social sectors. Children’s Teams ensure the right level and type of service are provided to our most vulnerable children.

During 2015/2016 a further six Children’s Teams were established, in Hamilton, Tairāwhiti, Eastern Bay of Plenty, Whanganui, Canterbury and Counties Manukau.

The teams are made up of government agencies and members of the local community, and are backed by practitioners and professionals from iwi/Māori and the health, education and social services sectors.

In November 2015 the Directorate launched ViKI, a secure information management system designed to support information sharing, collaboration and case management, and the Vulnerable Children’s Hub (The Hub), a contact and triage point for professionals and practitioners to raise concerns about a vulnerable child. ViKI and The Hub are now supporting three large, urban Children’s Teams in Hamilton, Canterbury and Counties Manukau.

At a national level the Directorate continued implementing the Vulnerable Children Act 2014 (the VCA) and components of the workforce programme alongside its partner agencies (see Implementing child protection policies). This included extending safety checking to local authorities, supporting Children’s Teams, conducting a children’s workforce survey, and developing a draft core competency framework.

The Children’s Action Plan Directorate and the Children’s Teams will be moving to the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki on 1 April 2017.

This work contributes to the following Ministry outcomes:

  • Fewer children and people are vulnerable
  • Fewer children and young people commit crime

Children's Teams

By 30 June 2016 we had:

  • accepted almost 2,000 children into Children's Teams, an increase of over 400 percent since 30 June 2015
  • referred over 850 children to Children's Teams from the almost 1,200 people who had contacted the Vulnerable Children's Hub
  • completed our engagement [1] with over 400 children across the ten Children's Teams since 2013.

Social Workers in Schools

  • Over 142,000 children in 673 decile 1 to 3 schools and 45 decile 4 to 6 schools were provided with access to a social worker in 2015/2016.

Reprioritising funding to support the Children’s Action Plan

Funding from the Strengthening Families programme has been reprioritised to support the expansion of the Children’s Action Plan in Northland and Canterbury. As a result, Strengthening Families services will close in the locations where Children’s Teams are currently operating. This process is being carefully managed to ensure children and their families continue to receive the support they need.

The Family Start and Social Workers in Schools programmes have workers who take on the role of Lead Professionals, as well as acting as members of a Child’s Action Network. We have made contracts more flexible to facilitate these workers to move between working within their home agency and Children’s Teams.

In areas where Children’s Teams are not yet located, families will continue to have access to social services, education, health and other providers from within their community.

Achieving better youth justice outcomes

We are committed to helping youth to get the best start as young adults. This includes having fewer children and young people commit crime. Since its introduction in 2007 we have been part of a cross-agency team delivering the Youth Crime Action Plan (YCAP). YCAP is about providing a more integrated approach to reduce the likelihood of reoffending by those who enter the youth justice system.

Over the past year, we worked with our YCAP partner agencies to:

  • publish a set of tools to assist local communities in developing local responses to youth crime
  • re-establish youth offending teams as local co-ordination hubs
  • develop early case consultation processes with Police
  • set up the new Youth Forensics Service, including a secure youth forensics unit.

We worked alongside the Expert Panel to ensure this work is built upon in the new operating model.

Implementing child protection policies

The Government is committed to growing a safe and competent children’s workforce who can play their part in keeping vulnerable children safe.

Through the Children’s Action Plan and the VCA, a new culture of protection is being introduced across the children’s workforce to ensure that children are safe.

In September 2015 we implemented a child protection policy in line with the VCA. Implementation commenced with an online training module known as ChildSAFE for our staff. By 30 June 2016, 98 percent of all Ministry employees had completed the training. As part of our ongoing commitment to child protection, ChildSAFE is included in all of our current induction programmes and will form part of the online national induction programme for social workers.

Under the VCA any core children’s worker who is either directly employed by, or is in a role that is funded by, the state sector will be unable to continue in their role if they have been convicted of a specified offence, unless they have obtained a core worker exemption. We have taken steps to strengthen our children’s workforce by:

  • ensuring that all new core children’s workers are screened and vetted before they begin work, in line with the existing standards for our social workers
  • ensuring that all current core children’s workers undergo a safety check by 1 July 2019
  • supporting 170 staff to become registered as social workers.

The Social Sector Accreditation Standards have been updated to incorporate the requirements for providers to have child protection policies. From 1 July 2016 all providers who enter into contracts with the Ministry are assessed against these standards.

Care and protection of vulnerable children and young people

We have a responsibility to provide care and protection to children and young people who require statutory intervention and who cannot live at home.

We work with all children who come into our care to ensure we understand their needs and they get the protection and support they deserve.

As at 30 June 2016:

  • 5,312 children and young people were in the custody of the Chief Executive, and of these 4,394 were in care and protection placements outside of their home.

In the year ended 30 June 2016:

  • we received notifications (including Police family violence referrals) in respect of 142,249 children and young people, of whom 44,689 required further action: a decrease of 774 or 1.7 percent from the previous year
  • 7,757 children and young people were involved in care and protection family group conferences (FGCs)
  • 6,114 children and young people were referred for youth justice FGCs. Of these, 280 were child offenders, 2,309 were referred by Police for Intention to Charge FGCs, and 3,525 were referred by the courts following prosecution.


[1] ‘Completed engagement’ means the child had left the Children’s Team with a transition or exit plan in place, had been escalated to Child, Youth and Family, or no longer required intervention from a Children’s Team.