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State care bill passes first reading

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 13/12/2016

© Getty Images The bill that will put in place the second stage of the government's state care reform programme has passed its first reading in parliament.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says the system has to be completely transformed so that the needs and safety of vulnerable children are placed at the heart of decision- making.

Proposals in the bill include:

** Allowing young people to remain in care or return to care until the age of 21, with transition support and advice available up to 25

* Enabling the establishment of an information sharing framework to keep vulnerable children and young people safe from harm

* Extending the youth justice system to include lower-risk 17 year olds

Labour opposed the bill because it removes from existing legislation the presumption that children who are removed from their parents should be placed, where possible, within the wider family.

"If the minister is looking for something to change, increasing support for kin carers would have been a great place to start," said Labour's children's spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern.

The Maori Party opposed it for the same reason.

It passed its first reading 61-59 and has been sent to a select committee for public submissions.

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