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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/care/caring-for-tamariki-in-care/explaining-rights-and-entitlements-to-tamariki-and-rangatahi/
Printed: 19/05/2024
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Last updated: 11/10/2021

Explaining rights and entitlements to tamariki and rangatahi

Under the National Care Standards, every tamaiti and rangatahi is entitled to receive information about what they can expect when they are in care, and be supported to raise any concerns they have.

Upcoming changes for this guidance

This content will be strengthened so it more completely reflects our commitment to practice framed by te Tiriti o Waitangi, based on a mana-enhancing paradigm for practice, and drawing from ​Te Ao Māori principles of oranga to support mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga. We each need to consider how we can apply these principles to our practice when reading this guidance. The following resources provide support:
Practice for working effectively with Māori
Our practice approach

Updates made to guidance

Under 'Decision-making about their own lives', we have added content about the right of tamariki and rangatahi to change their name and about marriage when the chief executive is a guardian.

What are tamariki and rangatahi rights and entitlements

This guidance encompasses three regulations in the National Care Standards:

Support for making a complaint, providing feedback, or raising issues of concern — regulation 43 of National Care Standards

Matters to be explained to children and young persons — regulation 66 of National Care Standards

Method of providing information and explanation — regulation 68 of National Care Standards

When we provide the quality of care that the Care Standards call for, tamariki and rangatahi will be able to say:

“I know what I can expect when I am in care and what my rights are”

“I’m listened to and I know what to do if things aren’t going well”

Ensuring tamariki and rangatahi know and understand their rights and entitlements is a critical part of our role. Under the National Care Standards, the specific information that needs to be covered during our conversations with tamariki and rangatahi includes:

  • why they are in care
  • what they can expect when they’re in care, including:
    • the timing of their needs assessment
    • their rights (as specified in the Statement of Rights)
    • how often they will be visited by their social worker
    • who they can contact if they have concerns
  • how their family, whānau, hapū, iwi and family group will be involved in decision-making, and why they’ll have that level of involvement
  • how te tamaiti or rangatahi can be involved in decision-making, and how their views will be used to help make decisions about them
  • the independent services that are available — including advocacy and Māori services
  • their right to confidentiality and privacy
  • how things about them are recorded, and how they can access that record
  • how they can provide feedback or make a complaint, including:
    • what constitutes feedback, and what constitutes a complaint
    • who they can contact if they want to provide feedback or make a complaint
    • what they can expect if they provide feedback or make a complaint, including timeframes, what will be recorded, and how they will be kept informed
    • where they can go to make a complaint
    • what processes or mechanisms are available if they are not satisfied with the response to their complaint
  • the support available to them if they need help to express their views
  • the support available to them if they need to express their views.

Supporting tamariki and rangatahi to understand their rights

Social workers need to carefully consider the communication needs of tamariki and rangatahi so we can help them understand their rights.

Factors that may influence how well we communicate with tamariki and rangatahi about new information include their:

  • age
  • development
  • language
  • any disability
  • cognitive ability.

Conditions such as Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) may influence the ability of a tamaiti or rangatahi to understand new information. Discussions with health professionals, teachers, caregivers and whānau or family of a tamaiti or rangatahi will help us understand their comprehension and how we can modify our approach to best engage with te tamaiti or rangatahi.

In some cases, we may need to find a support person who can help te tamaiti or rangatahi during these discussions. It will need to be someone they trust and who will support their best interests. It may be members of their whānau or family, or a professional in their support network (for example, a school counsellor).

Conversations about the rights of te tamaiti or rangatahi should occur at the following points in their journey:

  • coming into care
  • transitioning between placements
  • building their plan
  • reviewing their plan
  • significant change in circumstances
  • if te tamaiti or rangatahi asks about their rights, or an issue related to their rights arises.

We have a number of resources available to support tamariki and rangatahi to understand their rights in relation to care. These are based on the Statement of Rights in the National Care Standards and Related Matters Regulations 2018. The resources have been designed to help us have conversations with tamariki and rangatahi of all ages. They aim to make information about their rights available and accessible to tamariki and rangatahi.

Any discussion about the rights of te tamaiti or rangatahi should also use the information contained in the All About Me plan. The Tamariki All About Me plan includes information that is unique to te tamaiti or rangatahi, including:

  • why they are in care
  • the timing of their needs assessment
  • how often they will be visited by their social worker
  • how their whānau or family will be involved in decision-making
  • how they can be involved in decision-making.

Feedback and complaints

This section deals with the scenario where te tamaiti or rangatahi raises feedback or has a complaint. There is separate guidance for allegations of abuse. In general terms, a complaint is dissatisfaction with a level of service whereas an allegation of abuse relates to physical, sexual, mental harm or neglect. Make sure tamariki and rangatahi know that if it is an emergency, they should contact the Emergency Services on 111, rather than waiting to talk to their social worker.

It is important that you are clear on the distinction, as they need to be handled very differently. However, if you are in doubt, speak with your supervisor.

We must explain to tamariki and rangatahi they can provide feedback and make complaints, and we must ensure that a tamaiti or rangatahi who wishes to make a complaint, provide feedback, or raise an issue of concern receives sufficient support to enable them to do so.

When explaining to tamariki and rangatahi information about how they can raise a complaint or provide feedback, let them know that any issue they want to raise is important to Oranga Tamariki. Feedback could be something positive about their care or something that is not working for them.

This means regularly asking them if they have any issues to raise, taking their issues seriously and being ready to act to keep them safe and address their worries.

Tamariki and rangatahi also need to know that their feedback about the services they receive from Oranga Tamariki is really important. This feedback will help Oranga Tamariki and other services improve things for all tamariki and rangatahi.

“She always tells us when she comes to see us — just ring us up if you have any concerns or need something.”

“I didn’t know how to reach out … it was too hard.”

Support in making a complaint or giving feedback

Tamariki and rangatahi may become upset, angry, frustrated or anxious about sharing their feedback and/or making a complaint. As much as possible, reassure them that providing feedback and making a complaint is not a bad thing, but a way to ensure tamariki and rangatahi receive the care they need and services improve.

Tamariki and rangatahi with disabilities, developmental and communication needs may need more support to share their feedback and complaints. Disabled tamariki and rangatahi are more vulnerable when using services and may not have the ability to use standard feedback and complaint mechanisms.

We need to let tamariki and rangatahi know they can share their feedback and complaints with us or another trusted adult in their lives.

“Yes my early high school years I was at that stage, that was the stage where I felt I couldn’t say things to Oranga Tamariki myself and for reasons to do with my parents as well as not really being heard, seeing change through what I am trying to say. So my high school actually had a social worker, a professional social worker, and she had quite a bit to do with me and if need be in situations she would jump in and say ok look I am going to help support you with this, to get this message across to these people because they need to know.”

If a tamaiti or rangatahi decides not to progress with their complaint or feedback we need to talk with them to ensure that we have:

  • fully understood their reasons not to progress
  • addressed any concerns or barriers to using the feedback and complaints pathway
  • ensured that there is an alternative process for addressing their concerns
  • offered support (whether directly or through another person or organisation).

If we have fully explored the reason for this decision and why te tamaiti has changed their mind, then we should support them in their decision not to proceed.

Let tamariki and rangatahi know they can access independent support through VOYCE Whakarongo Mai.

Website: VOYCE Whakarongo Mai

Phone: 0800 4VOYCE (0800 486 923)

Process to make a complaint or give feedback

Once a tamaiti or rangatahi has decided to make a complaint or to provide feedback, let them know what the process is likely to be, what the possible outcomes may be, and how long it is likely to take to be resolved. The following is a guide on the steps to take:

  • Let te tamaiti or rangatahi know they can raise a complaint or share their feedback:
  • Let te tamaiti or rangatahi know, if they prefer, they can take their concerns to an external agency such as the Office of the Ombudsman (0800 802 602), Social Workers Registration Board (04 931 2650) or Office of the Children’s Commissioner (04 471 1410).
  • If te tamaiti or rangatahi gives feedback or makes a complaint directly to us, we should listen to what they have to say and clarify what they have said in a way that they understand wherever possible, using their own words (don’t use jargon).
  • Explain to them that what they have said is a complaint or feedback.
  • Explain what they can expect if they provide feedback or make a complaint. Ask them if they wish to proceed with the process. If they don’t, explore any reasons why and discuss how else their concerns could be addressed.
  • Explain if they proceed, the information they share will need to be recorded and sent through the appropriate channels — this could be the complaints process or by making a report of concern.
  • Explain if their concerns relate to a care provider (section 396 provider):
    • they will be forwarded to the care provider (if te tamaiti or rangatahi agree to proceeding) who will need to take the lead on responding to the concerns — Oranga Tamariki still has a role in ensuring they are supported through the process
    • if the concern amounts to a report of concern, it will be handled by Oranga Tamariki and the section 396 provider.
  • Explain if their feedback or concerns are about a full care partner, it is up to the provider to respond to the complaint or feedback.
  • Find out how te tamaiti or rangatahi feels about their concern being forwarded to the care provider. They may become fearful, anxious or upset — ask if they would like support.
  • Explain to them the timeframes for complaints and feedback to be responded to.
  • Explain how they will be supported if they make a complaint, for example, having someone write the complaint with them or having a trusted adult present when they speak about their complaint.
  • Explain what the possible outcomes of making a complaint may be.
  • Confirm that tamariki or rangatahi want to proceed with their feedback or concerns.
  • If tamariki or rangatahi tell you their feedback or complaint, and it is not a report of concern, email the Feedback and Complaints team. They will log the complaint or feedback in the complaints management system (CMS) and forward it to the site for follow-up.
    Email: feedback@ot.govt.nz
  • If the complaint or feedback has been made by an adult in the network of te tamaiti or rangatahi, check with te tamaiti or rangatahi to make sure they wish to proceed with the action. If te tamaiti is too young to make this decision, discuss it with your supervisor.

Reviewing a complaint

Someone not known to te tamaiti or rangatahi may be asked to review the complaint, depending on its nature and complexity. This may involve seeking out information to understand what has occurred. During this process, the person reviewing the complaint may wish to speak with te tamaiti or rangatahi if they are willing. Careful consideration should be given to who and how te tamaiti is supported in this process, taking care to consider support being provided by someone other than the person who the concerns are about. This could be their social worker, caregiver or another trusted adult. Support could also be provided by VOYCE Whakarongo Mai.

Resolution of feedback or complaint

As essential step in the feedback and complaint process is linking back to te tamaiti or rangatahi about the outcome. Often it has taken significant courage for te tamaiti or rangatahi to tell someone about their concerns or worries. It is therefore important that Oranga Tamariki acknowledges the feedback, lets te tamaiti or rangatahi know what action has been taken, and checks with them whether or not the steps taken have resolved the concern from their perspective.

  • Explain to te tamaiti or rangatahi the outcome of their feedback or complaint will be shared with them. Ask them how they like would to receive this, for example, ask them if a visit by their social worker would be appropriate, if they would like to have a support person or their caregiver with them, and if they would like a copy of this outcome in writing. Advise them that the outcome will also be recorded in their case records. When suggesting a person who could support them in this process, make sure this is someone who is not directly involved in the matters of concern to te tamaiti or rangatahi.
  • When sharing the outcome, consider the timing and location. The environment where the outcome is discussed will be important — it should be a space where tamariki or rangatahi will feel comfortable, safe and supported.
  • Also consider the sensitivity of the information and what follow-up support should be provided to help te tamaiti or rangatahi process the news.
  • When the outcome has been shared, ask them how they feel about the outcome.
  • We must explain to te tamaiti or rangatahi what processes or mechanisms are available if they are not satisfied with the response of Oranga Tamariki to their complaint. This could include contacting the Office of the Ombudsman, Social Workers Registration Board or Office of the Children’s Commissioner or seeking support from VOYCE Whakarongo Mai.