Te Pāti Māori has accused the government of being bereft of leadership and in a “state of paralysis” over its response to the murder of five-year-old Malachi Subecz.
An independent review yesterday identified “critical gaps” in the system where government agencies failed to protect Subecz, rendering him “an invisible child”.
Report author Dame Karen Poutasi recommended 14 changes, nine of which the government fully accepted, including better information sharing and running regular awareness campaigns.
Officials have been tasked with investigating the remaining five recommendations – including mandatory reporting – and reporting back with advice next year.
“It’s appropriate that we do take our time and that we do get this right,” Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis said.
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the government lacked urgency and should immediately get started on the full suite of recommendations.
“They’re not reviewing and doing. They just seem to stop in a state of paralysis,” Ngarewa-Packer said.
“[Davis] is bereft of knowing where to take the agency [Oranga Tamariki]. They’ve become politically benign.”
The report’s key recommendation, which remains in limbo, was to legally require anyone tasked with child protection to report suspected child abuse.
Previous governments have considered and declined the idea due to fears that an influx of reports could lead to more children slipping through the cracks.
Davis yesterday told media he wanted to look more closely at the Australian experience where reporting is compulsory to varying degrees across states.
“We’d like to see the evidence that it is working,” Davis said.
But Ngarewa-Packer said the government could have been doing that research while waiting for the review to report back.
“Are you telling me that you haven’t got a work programme that’s already looking at solutions?
“Are you seriously telling me that we have a minister and an agency waiting for [a report] to drop down before they then go and react?”
ACT social development spokesperson Karen Chhour said most of the proposals were commonsense and should already be in place.
“People are sick of hearing that the government’s sorry … we’ve had recommendation after recommendation after recommendation. Enough is enough.
“Now we want to start seeing some outcomes and some action.”
Chhour said she could not believe it was not already policy for Oranga Tamariki to vet all caregivers appointed to look after children if their parent is arrested.
“These are things that have been pointed out over and over again over the last few years.”
But Chhour said she understood the need for more advice about mandatory reporting: “The last thing we want to do is add another layer of bureaucracy”.
The National Party declined an interview request, but issued a statement from its children’s spokesperson Harete Hipango.
“It is time for this government to stop talking and put in place some meaningful action that will improve the lives of children,” Hipango said.
“Strong leadership and oversight of Oranga Tamariki is desperately needed to fix the dysfunction at the agency and prevent such a tragedy from happening again.”
Hipango did not respond to questions about which recommendations National would pursue.
The Greens also declined to be interviewed, releasing a brief statement from its children’s spokesperson, Jan Logie: “It is clear we have work to do to ensure our children are safe, and the Green Party will continue fighting for the best for our children and their whānau.”
Story Credit: rnz.co.nz