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Social Wellbeing

Example of our work regarding SOCIAL ISSUES

Edition 36/ 2020 Children With Offending Behaviour: Supporting Children, 10-13 Year Olds, Who Seriously Offend And Are Referred Under S14(1) e of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.

We reviewed  a succinct report from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, on support options for children aged 10 to 13 years who have ‘criminally’ offended (circa 170 children committed a serious offence last year, the majority of whom are Māori).

We agree with the findings that suggest this young group appears often overlooked, and services from Oranga Tamariki are others entities like schools and the New Zealand Police are fragmented and disorganised – but that those things need to be corrected given over 70% of these children later go on to become youth and/or adults who commit offences. e. intervene earlier, in order to mitigate against further serious issues.We reviewed  a succinct report from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, on support options for children aged 10 to 13 years who have ‘criminally’ offended (circa 170 children committed a serious offence last year, the majority of whom are Māori).

However the reason we consider this report is stronger than good and reaches our excellent standard, relates to the additional comments from the Commissioner, Judge Andrew Becroft, on the wider legislative and policy issues presenting in this area. In a nutshell, Commissioner Becroft staunchly tells the Government that Parliament’s 2010 rewriting on the law to allow for the criminalisation of 10 to 13 year olds was wrong, that it does not have a strong policy basis, is out-of-step with international instruments; and does not fit with the needs of New Zealand society.  He advises it therefore needs to be changed back to ensure a complete focus on the welfare needs of these tamariki.  We consider he nails this point; and suspect he knows what he is talking about in terms of the legislation, given he is the former Principal Youth Court Judge. The incoming Government has indicated they are intending to progress further criminal justice reforms, so potentially this item for tamariki will now be on the table.

Title: Children With Offending Behaviour: Supporting Children, 10-13 Year Olds, Who Seriously Offend And Are Referred Under S14(1) e of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.
Publisher & Date: Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC): August 2020
Type of Document: Evaluative Report
Length, style 36 pages, plain English
Recommended readership: Subscribers in the social sector
Content summary This is an evaluative report on services to support children aged 10 to 13 years who have committed a serious criminal offence.[1]

[By way of background, New Zealand has a system for children agreed 10 to 13 year facing criminal charges – which is a separate approach than that used for youth offenders (those aged 14 to 17 years). For children the focus is on welfare, not criminal justice.   However the idea that children aged 10 to 13 could face charges (beyond murder and manslaughter) is relatively new to Aotearoa (introduced in 2010); and the Commissioner, Judge Andrew Becroft, is not coy in saying it’s a poor law, out-of-step with international legal instruments and the needs of Aotearoa.  And he is an expert, noting his past role as Principal Youth Court Judge.]

While the review notes child offending rates are falling (like youth and adult rates); the finding is ultimately that the system of support for these tamariki is fragmented and suboptimal.   Based on their interviews of 93 individuals and groups[2] and a desktop review of Oranga Tamariki case records key findings are:

·         In 2018 there were circa 2,300 children who offended –  within which 170 offences were classified as ‘very serious’ and warranted a Family Group Conference.  The report notes ‘most children in this cohort are Māori’; and culturally focussed responses were identified as being generally poor.

·         Children with offending behaviour are frequently disengaged from education; and

·         the system is complex and often poorly understood, agencies like the Police, schools and Oranga Tamariki are fragmented;

Some recommendations specific to tamariki Māori and their whānau made in the review included:

Oranga Tamariki

·         “consistent with s7AA and the Treaty of Waitangi. Continues to strengthen its focus on the cultural makeup of its workforce and the development of cultural confidence and capability for all staff, to ensure that tamariki Māori and their whānau receive services that are informed by and delivered from a Māori worldview and build the trust necessary to support tamariki and whānau effectively.” (Page 20).

·         continues to focus on ensuring that there are sufficient opportunities for iwi and Māori social services to build the capability and capacity they need, to meet the needs of this cohort of tamariki and their whānau. The Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy expects that all children will be connected to their culture, language, beliefs and identity.” (Page 20).

Quality rating:[3] Excellent
Assessment Rationale: This is a useful evaluation from the OCC – and covers an area often overlooked in policy design.  But the point is well made that it needs more attention – particularly given the poor results from services delivered; with four out of five tamariki going to further offending as youth or adults.  This area is the chance to stop that downward spiral from getting any monument at all.

We note Judge Becroft’s direct and upfront advice to the Government to improve the law and reset the definition of children offending (if there is such a thing) demonstrates he has a clear, useful and insightful understanding of the research. We also note that this report demonstrates strong cognisance for Māori in particular.

Hyperlink: https://www.occ.org.nz/publications/reports/children-with-offending-behaviour/


[1]
Refer to the rubrics table in the endnotes for quality ratings.