A note arrived in our office this week from a social worker.

A social who has worked for Oranga Tamariki. A social worker who has uplifted babies.
A social worker who, like many in New Zealand at the moment, is reluctant to pop their head above the parapet.

But it's safe to lob something gently over.

The social worker's comments are empathetic, but not overly emotive and have a sense of integrity.


The person makes this observation:

"Not once have I heard any professional talk about giving social workers more support, they talk about more policies, another review, a name change etc etc.

"But what we need is more support, more social workers and a good hard look at why we are in the position. Because it is NOT the social workers who have led us down this path. It is us, our society, our culture and we need to look at that."

The good news is that yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated that the first round of Budget money for support for Oranga Tamariki was now available.

In the next four years, Oranga Tamariki will receive $524.7 million to fix its care system, including money for appointing more social workers.

Why do we suddenly care about this?

Because the fiasco that was an attempt last month to uplift a baby from Hawke's Bay Hospital has highlighted, amongst other things, some serious inadequacies within Oranga Tamariki.

There will be an inquiry - Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft is to investigate Oranga Tamariki's uplifts of all Māori babies up to the age of 3 months.

The sad thing about the focus on Oranga Tamariki, the subsequent conflict within the Hawke's Bay District Health Board and the spotlight on social workers, is that it has become a sideshow to the real issue.

Courts don't issue orders to uplift children lightly - there was a reason that the baby in question was deemed unsafe to be with its mother.

And that's the most important part - what is best for the child?

There is best practice out there for Ngāti Kahungunu to look at, re. iwi working closer with Oranga Tamariki. And in a few weeks, Oranga Tamariki is bound by new legislation which says it has to closely involve iwi.

But all of this, the inquiry included, will be a waste of time if egos and politics are not left at the door, so that the starting point for change is "what is best for the children?"