Children’s Minister Karen Chhour says Oranga Tamariki’s legal difficulties an ‘operational matter’

The children’s minister’s office says the inability of social workers to handle their statutory legal duties is an “operational matter”.

Oranga Tamariki has told RNZ it underinvested in training social workers on understanding the law and preparing for court, leading to an over-reliance on its legal team.

Children’s Minister Karen Chhour was approached earlier for comment, but was on leave. In a statement, her office said: “She would not comment specifically on the issue you raise below, because it is an operational matter.”

She was aware of Oranga Tamariki’s restructure and that internal feedback was being thoroughly considered by chief executive Chappie Te Kani.

“She knows he read every piece of feedback,” it said.

Te Kani pulled back on how many lawyer jobs he had originally planned to cut as part of public sector costs savings, after he heard in the feedback about social workers’ “genuine fear and concern from withdrawing the safety net at the scale proposed, without having first lifted the capability of social workers and their supervisors”.

Asked why he did not realise this weakness amongst staff before, and what the feedback he had received, the ministry in a statement on Tuesday told RNZ the “feedback themes” would be outlined in the restructure decision document that would be put on its website in due course.

The ministry told RNZ it would review how its legal services operate and what training people got.

It did not say if it would look into what impacts the “dependency on solicitors as a safety net” might have had on tamariki and whānau, if any.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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