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Vulnerable Children ministry launches

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 30/03/2017

A new ministry that's been years in the making is about to be launched, taking over responsibility from Child, Youth and Family for young people who need help.

It represents a complete overhaul of the system, recommended by an independent expert advisory panel appointed by the government.

"This is the start of a four to five year major transformation programme to build a more child-centred care and protection system, focusing on harm and trauma prevention and early intervention, rather than crisis management," Minister for Children Anne Tolley said at the launch of Oranga Tamariki Ministry for Vulnerable Children on Friday.

The launch was hosted by year 12 student Iavana Seuala and began with performances by children from Te Aro School.

Piki Boyles shared the story of how she and her brother went into care as young children because of domestic violence and substance abuse.

While some people saw her upbringing as a challenge for her, she see it as a blessing because it taught her not to let the past hold her down, but to let her struggle empower and motivate her.

Jon Pilalis grew up on the other side of the system, the son of foster carers, and told how his life had been changed for the better by the arrival of his foster siblings.

"We've started out as we mean to continue - with children and young people at the absolute centre of everything we do," Mrs Tolley said.

The ministry is based on five core services - prevention, intensive intervention, care and support, youth justice and support for people up to the age of 18.

Children and young people will have more of a say in what happens to them, and they will have access to an independent advocacy service.

Prime Minister Bill English met with members of the youth advisory committee, who were consulted and played a role in developing the ministry, ahead of the launch.

"We are here because so many people have been wiling and able to rethink how we do things, and that takes some courage," he said.

This is different to past attempts to reinvigorate the department, he said.

"We've learnt from all the work that Mrs Tolley and other ministers have done that spending time and money on each child gives us a lifelong payoff," he said.

"What's different is the depth of understanding about where government can now focus its efforts much more effectively."

Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft doubts the new ministry is ready.

"Procedures are still being put in place, staff are still being finalised at the top table, it looks like it will take a year or so, or more," he said on Thursday.

Ahead of the launch on Friday, Mrs Tolley was sure her new ministry would be up and running.

"We are more than ready. It is time."

Grainne Moss as chief executive will initially oversee nine deputies within the ministry, but Mrs Tolley expects that number to decline as the ministry gets up and running.

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