The Children’s Action Plan is a cross-sector programme established to protect vulnerable children by proactively reducing child abuse and neglect.
It evolved from public consultation led by the Government, which asked New Zealanders what changes were needed to better protect our children from abuse and neglect, and reinforced that protecting vulnerable children is everyone’s responsibility. The public contributed their views through submissions on the Green Paper and these submissions then formed the basis of the White Paper for Vulnerable Children released in October 2012.
The White Paper includes legislation changes and a range of solutions to better identify, support and protect vulnerable children. The Children’s Action Plan provides the set of actions and initiatives to respond to the issues affecting vulnerable children and to achieve the changes documented in the White Paper.
- The White Papers Volume 1-2 and the Green Paper can be downloaded from the Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children website.
The Children’s Action plan is an inter-agency collaboration involving the following government agencies; Ministries of Social Development, Health, Education, Justice, Business, Innovation, and Employment (Housing), New Zealand Police and Te Puni Koriki. These agencies are jointly responsible for achieving results for vulnerable children and work together to deliver the initiatives outlined in the Children’s Action Plan.
The programme is led by a multi-agency Directorate, the Children’s Action Plan Directorate. The Ministry of Health is the lead for the Community Responsibility initiative. Read more about this initiative below.
Better Public Services
The Children’s Action Plan contributes to the Government’s Better Public Services under the result area, Supporting Vulnerable Children. The plan implements initiatives to reduce the number of assaults on children (Result 4). This result aims to end the 10-year rise in children experiencing physical abuse and reduce 2011 numbers by five per cent by 2017.
These actions aim to deliver on the solutions outlined in the Government’s White Paper for Vulnerable Children and include:
- better screening of children for vulnerability
- fully assessing the needs of vulnerable children
- better enabling frontline workers and communities to communicate concerns about children
- making services more focused on results.
For more information see the State Services Commission resources Better Public Services: Supporting vulnerable children.
The White Paper for Vulnerable Children 2012 introduced new legislation, the Vulnerable Children Act 2014, to better protect vulnerable children and changes to other legislation – the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 (formerly the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989) and the KiwiSaver Act 2006.
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 introduced the following changes.
- Chief Executives of the New Zealand Police, Ministries of Education, Justice, Social Development and the Director-General of Health are accountable to Ministers for developing and implementing a cross-agency plan on vulnerable children, which is to be reported on.
- The development of child protection policies for staff employed by agencies who work with children.
- Standardised safety checking for the entire Government-funded children’s workforce to help identify the people who pose a risk to children. Includes confirmation of identification and a Police Check involving thorough criminal history checks and a risk assessment with periodic reassessment.
- Workforce restrictions for those who have committed serious offences as specified in the Act who may pose a risk to children.
Read more about safety checking and workforce restrictions.
Children’s Action Plan
The Children’s Action Plan sits behind the White Paper for Vulnerable Children released in 2012 and provides the framework outlining the solutions and actions to be taken to resolve the issues with vulnerable children. It is a living document that will continue to evolve and be updated in line with the changes outlined in the White Paper.
The White Paper contained a range of solutions including legislative changes, information sharing, tracking vulnerable children, tougher penalties and monitoring of child abusers, screening those who work with children, local children’s teams and shared responsibilities for all New Zealanders.
Some of the key initiatives that have been implemented to date include:
- Development of legislation, the Vulnerable Children Act 2014 to ensure services for children and families are child-centred, specifically:
- All agencies working with children are now required to have child protection policies and reporting systems in place to recognise and report child abuse and neglect.
- Enabling a safe and competent children’s workforce by introducing mandatory safety checking across the government funded children’s workforce to provide standardised pre-employment screening.
- Introduction of a workforce restriction where people who have committed serious offences as specified in the Act can no longer work with children.
- Establishing local multi-disciplinary Children’s Teams across the country to work together and share responsibility to better achieve results for vulnerable children – to date teams have been rolled out in Rotorua, Whangarei, Otaki/Horowhenua, Marlborough and Hamilton. Next, teams will be implemented in Tairawhiti, Eastern Bay of Plenty, Whanganui, Christchurch and Clendon/Manurewa/Papakura
- Development of an Approved Information Sharing Agreement (AISA) to support better information sharing amongst the key agencies involved in the Children’s Action Plan.
- Sector consultation undertaken for the development of a draft core competency framework to support the children’s workforce with a shared set of skills, values and knowledge.
Community Responsibility initiatives are being led by the Ministry of Health as part of the ‘Mentoring and Support’ activities in the Children’s Action Plan. The Ministry is supporting work to encourage safe and effective mentoring for vulnerable children. The Ministry is also working closely with Philanthropy New Zealand to strengthen strategic relationships between philanthropic organisations and government social sector agencies.
In 2013, the Ministry developed Safe Practice Guidelines for youth mentoring programmes, and these are now being integrated into a single Guide to Effective Practice in Youth Mentoring in New Zealand led by the New Zealand Youth Mentoring Network.
The Ministry is identifying where shared investment in vulnerable children will be the most effective, including ways to improve vulnerable children’s access to existing scholarships and grants. It is working with government social sector agencies and philanthropic organisations, building relationships to increase opportunities for collaboration.
The Ministry of Health Children’s Action Plan Programme is part of the Child and Family Programmes team located in the Sector, Capability and Implementation business unit.
The programme team works with various teams across the Ministry to provide project management, strategic, clinical, policy advice and expertise contributing to the wider programme of work managed by the Children’s Action Plan Directorate.
For more information about the Children’s Action Plan Programme at the Ministry of Health contact Caroline Flora, Children’s Action Plan Programme Manager: Caroline_Flora@moh.govt.nz.