Failure to consult with children on changes to Children’s Commissioner could breach child rights

Save the Children says the Government has an opportunity to consult with children and young people on proposed changes to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and Oranga Tamariki oversight system, but failure to do so could breach their rights under the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Save the Children today (Wednesday at 9am) presented its oral submission to the Select Committee in support of its 10,000+ strong petition presented to Parliament earlier this year that opposed major changes to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and Oranga Tamariki oversight system. The oral submission comes just before this week’s second reading of the proposed Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People’s Commission Bill.

Save the Children New Zealand Advocacy and Research Director Jacqui Southey says that while the Select Committee’s recommended changes are a positive start - responding to two out of three of the petition’s key asks - children are yet to be consulted and major reservations around the Bill remain.

Says Ms Southey: "We are concerned that children have still not been consulted with, and the Government is yet to make a commitment to uphold their obligations under the Convention to consult with children and consider their views in the development of the new Commission.

"It is our view the failure to consult with children and take their voices into account would be a breach of children’s rights under the Convention of the Rights of the Child ratified by New Zealand in 1993."We acknowledge the young people who shared their views through oral submissions to this Committee, however this cannot be confused with a robust consultation that should engage tamariki of all ages across Aotearoa.

"We also remain concerned about the lack of clarity on the role of the Chief Children’s Commissioner, what form a board will take, and the oversight system, particularly the separation of the Children Commissioner from children under the care of the Oranga Tamariki system."

Ms Southey is urging the Select Committee to listen to the views of more than 10,800 New Zealanders who signed the petition and invest the time and resources to uphold important children’s rights to a voice on changes to their commissioner and the establishment of their new Commission.

"We acknowledge that political engagement to hear the views of experts and professionals across the children’s sector continues to take place. What continues to be absent from this important process are the voices of children.

"Consulting with children across Aotearoa on this important Bill is an opportunity for the Government to show leadership in upholding the rights of children and taking their views into account. The promise of the Bill to strengthen advocacy for children and young people’s issues generally will be much stronger as a result."

To watch Ms Southey’s oral submission go to: