Child Poverty Action Group commends the Select Committee’s recommendation to keep the crucial role of the Children’s Commissioner but is concerned that the process got this far. The independence of the Commissioner is critical if that role is to make its maximum contribution to children’s wellbeing.
"The speed at which the Children and Young People’s Commission Bill progressed through Select Committee is a big concern, especially given the objective of the Bill is to ‘strengthen advocacy for children’s and young people’s issues’ - yet children and young people were not consulted" says Mike O’Brien, Social Security Spokesperson for Child Poverty Action Group.
CPAG welcomes the Select Committee’s recommendation to retain the important role of a named Children’s Commissioner with the power to report directly to the Prime Minister but agrees with Save the Children - that the amendments do not go far enough.
Although the Committee supports the continued ability to report directly to the Prime Minister, CPAG is not convinced that the suggested move to a Board model from the current model of an independent Children’s Commissioner is strong enough to support our most vulnerable children.
"It doesn’t make sense to have a monitoring system that works independently but is not fully independent of government. It’s like being the judge and the jury at the same time" says O’Brien.
"We also believe that much more work needs to be done to ensure the Ombudsman is more child friendly in receiving complaints from children related to the care system. It makes much more sense for this work to be with the Children’s Commission" says O’Brien.
"In its current state, we do not view the Ombudsman as a child-friendly avenue for complaints. Separating out individual complaints and systemic complaints between two different agencies is a recipe for confusion and ambiguity and may perversely impede the protection of a very vulnerable group of families, tamariki and rangatahi. These are the needs of a very vulnerable group of children, we can’t run the risk of them falling between agencies" says O’Brien.
CPAG has a long-standing relationship with the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and understands the value of having an independent voice for children. We will continue to advocate for the Government to genuinely consult with children and for children’s voices to inform changes to the Children’s Commissioner, the new Commission, and the oversight of Oranga Tamariki.