A new comprehensive level of reporting revealing any abuse or injuries suffered by children in state care is being introduced to include even minor incidents such as when a child may have been hurt falling off a horse or playing in the playground.

The Ministry for Children, Oranga Tamariki wants to reduce the number of children hurt under the care of the agency after research found about 12 per cent of youngsters in 2015/16 suffered harm while supposedly in state care.

As of 31 March 2018, 6250 children were in state care and about 3,800 caregivers provided day-to-day care for those kids who could not live at home.

The new measures include widening the scope of what is harm to cover any incidents that occur. The information is to be reported straight away so action if required can be taken.

Advertisement

Children's Minister Tracey Martin said the new system and setting up the Safety of Children in Care Unit earlier this year was a sign that Oranga Tamariki was going to hold itself to a higher standard and was going to be transparent.

"No parent just decides that they are only going to be told when it's at an extreme level of harm. We are these children's parents for a period of time. We need to really take that on board."

She hoped that eventually the reporting would not be needed and families were being supported so fewer children were placed in Oranga Tamariki's care. But while children were in care there had to be a higher level of public confidence they were safe.

Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne Moss said the research carried out last year had looked at what other countries were doing. She believed the system was leading the way internationally.

This level of data had never been collected before nor had it been looked at closely by the front line, regional and leadership teams who would establish whether the child was harmed, what had happened and what could be done to make the child safe.

Grainne Moss, CEO of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children. Photo / Dean Purcell
Grainne Moss, CEO of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children. Photo / Dean Purcell

"We have a very very broad view of harm. So some of the conversations we are having (in meetings), if you were sitting in the room, you would say 'but that's not really harm'. The person fell over in the playground, they hurt their knee," Moss said.

"One kid today we talked about had been horse riding and fallen off a horse. But what we say is any harm is harm and as a responsible parent we would be concerned if that harm was caused in the loveliest of circumstances in some ways and somebody doing something they loved and enjoyed and building skills."

Moss warned the numbers would initially increase because of the definition of harm being widened.

Advertisement

"These are the people who are in care who would have experienced before coming into care significant trauma and harm. It's our job to ensure they are safe and get that opportunity to heal. So we take extra special care with those children because we have been given the privilege of having them in our custody and being able to make a difference in our lives."

Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft said New Zealand's high child abuse rates were shameful and said introducing the best measures of monitoring those in state care could not come soon enough.

"It's ironic isn't it that we have to set in place a measurement system at all to look at and track harmed children who have to be removed from their own homes because of the harm they experienced and then measure the extent of harm in a government place.

"It's ironic and it's sad, but it has to be done and I applaud it."

Becroft said the priority must be on avoiding removing children from their own homes in the first place and providing the best support and education it could and if they were removed that they were getting the best possible standard of care.