Ombudsman launches 'wide-ranging and independent' investigation into baby uplifts by Oranga Tamariki

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier will launch a "wide-ranging and independent" investigation into uplifts of babies by Oranga Tamariki, while another review by Oranga Tamariki and Ministry for Children takes place looking into a specific Hawke's Bay case. 

Mr Boshier confirmed the investigation during a committee at Parliament today. 

The ombudsman is an independent authority that handles complaints about Government agencies and is able to carry out investigations where it sees the need.

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Jacinda Ardern told TVNZ1’s Breakfast she thinks people want answers in a more immediate way. Source: Breakfast

The investigation would be "focused on what a good system should look like" and will "provide a broader overview aimed at identifying best practice", Mr Boshier said.

"No one is more vulnerable than a newborn baby," he added. "I think the public needs assurance that the right policies and processes are in place for their protection while at the same time safeguarding the rights of whānau."

Children's Minister Tracey Martin said she is "really, really thrilled" about the ombudman's investigation. 

"He has the capacity we need to make sure there is confidence, to make sure there is independence and that he will make public the findings.

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“We’re the right people” to investigate uplifts, the chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier said. Source: 1 NEWS

She said people had not lost confidence in Oranga Tamariki in the wake of a controversial Newsroom documentary that showed social workers in Hawke's Bay attempting to remove a newborn. In fact, people have been dropping off cakes to show support, she said. 

"It was a terrible incident that nobody came off well in," she said. "This is not black and white stuff."

National's Simon Bridges said the Hawke's Bay footage was "a tragic, awful set of circumstances" and "very harrowing to watch".

But…taking a child from a family, from a whānau, should be absolute last resort," he said.

"The other side where there’s various serious issues, whether it’s drugs, violence, we do need to ensure children are safe and that’s Oranga Tamariki’s job. I think there will clearly be circumstances where [uplifting] is inevitability the right thing to do."

He said he would be very surprised "if they didn’t find there were things that could be improved".

Green Party's Marama Davidson also welcomed the investigation and said she had "huge concerns" over uplifts. 

"There needs to be more accountability of the state practice of removing children. This needs to be solutions-based.

She said if babies did need to be uplifted, it should be in a way that was "compassionate and supported by Māori and iwi organisations".

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Judge Andrew Becroft’s office has conducted a review into the Government agency. Source: Breakfast

Yesterday, the terms of reference were released for the Oranga Tamariki–Ministry for Children review into the incident.

The Oranga Tamariki–Ministry for Children review will be led by a chief social worker from Oranga Tamariki. The review leader will be appointed by Ngāti Kahungunu.

The Children's Commissioner, who will also have input, said he was pleased Oranga Tamariki was doing its own internal investigation into the case.

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Minister of Children, Tracey Martin, made the announcement today after the incident last month. Source: 1 NEWS

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