In 2019, Oranga Tamariki began a review of financial assistance for caregivers receiving the Foster Care Allowance (FCA), Orphan’s Benefit (OB), or the Unsupported Child’s Benefit (UCB). The review was intended to address issues with financial assistance for caregivers. This has resulted in some immediate additional support, including:
- A $25 increase to the weekly rates of the FCA, OB and UCB (July 2020)
- Extending eligibility for the OB/UCB to caregivers who provide care to a tamaiti for less than 12 months (July 2021)
- Extending Holiday and Birthday Allowances to OB and UCB caregivers (Holiday:December 2021 and Birthday: from 1 January 2022)
- Increasing the nappy payment by $4.84 per week for FCA caregivers to more accurately reflect the cost of nappies (April 2022)
- Incorporating the weekly nappy and standard payments, $24.84 and $10 respectively, into the rates of OB and UCB by increasing the rate of the OB/UCB by $34.84 per week for tamariki aged 0 – 4 years and by $10 per week for tamariki aged 5 years or older (April 2022).
Caregivers who receive the FCA are generally caring for tamariki within the State care system. Close to 4,000 caregivers currently receive the FCA. Those caring for tamariki outside of the State care system (receiving OB or UCB) are a key cohort forming part of this review. Currently around 13,000 caregivers receive the UCB and around 350 caregivers receive the OB.
Caregivers who receive the OB must have a tamaiti who has experienced one of the following eligibility criteria:
- natural or adopted parent(s) or stepparent have died
- parent(s) can’t be found, or
- parent(s) can’t look after them because of a long-term health condition or incapacity.
For the UCB, a tamaiti will have experienced events that have led to a family breakdown, where the natural or adopted parent(s) or stepparent can’t care for them.
Some children are referred by Oranga Tamariki, and it may have been agreed in a Family Group Conference, hui, or cultural service meeting, that there has been a family breakdown.
The survey and focus groups engaged with OB and UCB caregivers as we have less information on their needs. The insights that we have heard from OB and UCB caregivers will inform the government’s work programme.
As part of the consultation for the reform of financial assistance and support for caregivers, OB/UCB caregivers were invited to participate in an online or paperbased survey to share their experiences and opinions. The survey ran for two weeks and closed on June 15 2021 with 2,078 caregivers having responded.
NielsenIQ conducted five focus groups with caregivers receiving the UCB who had completed the survey and agreed to participate in future research. Focus groups were carried out in South Auckland, Whangarei, Rotorua, Hutt Valley and Christchurch in late July and early August 2021. A total of 36 caregivers participated across the focus groups, with six to eight in each. The focus groups lasted for 2 to 2.5 hours.
The full survey and descriptive characteristics of caregivers can be found in the appendices.
The engagement with caregivers showed that:
- caregivers wanted better access to information about available support and entitlements
- the process for applying for the benefits should be simpler and easier with more support provided and greater understanding shown for the circumstances and needs of applicants
- caregivers often felt under-prepared and needed help from agencies, both financial and non-financial, along with better access to mental health and respite services
- caregivers also wanted more opportunities to learn new skills to support their caregiving role, such as how to deal with emotional/behavioural issues and trauma in tamariki.
Insights from the engagement report have improved our understanding of the financial and non-financial needs of caregivers outside of State care and helped to inform the ongoing work to reform the assistance and support provided to caregivers. A new model of support has been developed for these caregivers and the children that they care for.