This analysis uses internal and external data sources to explore who is most affected by, and potential reasons for, the decline in entries to care.
Specifically, it asks:
- Which groups of children are most represented in the decrease? Which ages and ethnicities? Where do these children live?
- Is the decrease occurring because the children’s population has decreased?
- Does the decrease in entries coincide with key events? (such as the formation of Oranga Tamariki in 2017, the reviews of Oranga Tamariki from 2019 onwards and the introduction of s7AA legislation).
- Have the changes in the intakes and early assessment process impacted on the number of entries?
- Has the number of carers/children receiving the Unsupported Child’s Benefit (UCB) been increasing as entries to care have been decreasing?
- Have entries to care fallen because the wellbeing of children and their families increased?
Analysis of the decrease in the number of children entering care:
This analysis uses internal and external data sources to explore who is most affected
by, and potential reasons for, the decline in entries to care.
The intelligence in this document is based on documents provided by Oranga Tamariki as well as a search of publicly available materials. 1 The following approaches were used to source documents:
- media sources such as Stuff New Zealand and Radio New Zealand (RNZ) were used initially to identify potential academics, iwi and Māori organisations
- an internet search was conducted to identify materials generated by these academics and organisations, and to source materials related to Oranga Tamariki practice changes that may have impacted on the numbers of tamariki in care over the past three years
- an internet search using a range of search terms was also undertaken. A table of the search terms is provided in Appendix A o validation of information was sought through referencing affidavit statements to the Waitangi Tribunal (Wai 2915), grey and published literature.
A review of all references was then filtered based on whether information was:
- referenced in affidavits for the Waitangi Tribunal (Wai 2915)
- within the period 2017 to end of June 2020. Those since July 2020 have not been included as they are unlikely to have contributed to the downward trend of tamariki in care
- relevant in terms of addressing why the number of tamariki entering care is reducing.
A total of 51 items were reviewed in developing this evidence scan. Some of these provided background information that formed the basis for further searching and as such have not been referenced in this document.
UCB as an alternative pathway:
CYRAS records, relating to the Report of Concern and any following assessment and intervention, were reviewed through a structured data inquiry process. Data were coded and collated in an Excel spreadsheet with controlled entry and free text fields. A guidance document (available on request) provided advice to reviewers about the interpretation of case notes and the coding of this text.
Where possible, text was categorised within the coding framework provided, with ‘other’ categories only used where there was no code that could be reliably applied. This guidance document mirrored the spreadsheet that captured structured data and reviewers’ comments.
This review followed the care and protection pathway of receiving information, making an NFA/FAR (no further action/further action required) decision, carrying out assessment (including that which might happen in intake), making a finding and holding a hui-a-whānau or FGC to consider the care and protection concerns. As a whānau care arrangement through UCB can happen anywhere throughout this process, reviewers looked at Safety and Risk Screens and Tuituia reports for reference to a change in a care arrangement.
Three reviewers carried out an initial analysis of a group of test case records in the sample, working together on developing the guidance document and on the analysis and interpretation of results. They reviewed a group of cases independently and used this as a basis for discussion, interpretation and revision of codes and categories. Two reviewers then worked independently on reviewing the cases in the sample and submitted a group of cases to each other for co-moderation – these included cases where reviewers had made borderline or cannot be determined judgements. CYRAS recording limitations and data access issues mean this is a limited exploratory study, using a convenience sample and conducted within a short timeframe. It can provide initial insights into care arrangements made this way during 2019 and the findings may generate further research proposals.
The number of entries to care has fallen markedly the past several years. The proportion of entries for tamariki Māori peaked in 2017, and has remained relatively stable since F2020. The largest decrease was for unborn and newborn pēpi, though this decrease has also tapered off since F2020. The use of section 78 has dropped dramatically in the past 5 years.
There have been numerous changes to Oranga Tamariki practice since 2017. These include investment in early support services, strengthening core social work practice, introducing and implementing the National Care Standards, and a framework for cultural competency. There has also been a focus on the design and implementation of prototypes and initiatives to support early engagement and assessment, development of intensive response services, and designing and ensuring greater support is provided to whānau. We also have a focus on Strategic Partnerships with iwi and how we work with providers.
Reports of concern decreased in F2022, though this decrease is much more pronounced than the decrease in entries to care. COVID-19 has reduced the rates of reporting from Education and Health, though changes in the National Call Centre practice have also impacted renotification rates.
We cannot directly attribute the decrease in the number of tamariki entering care to any one cause. The effect is a cumulation of a number of factors working together. Analysis using the Oranga Tamariki Children’s Wellbeing Model indicates that there has not been a significant shift in the health of tamariki and development in the last year which may have explained the decrease.