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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/care/caring-for-tamariki-in-care/housing-support-for-whanau-or-family/
Printed: 14/06/2024
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Last updated: 24/07/2023

Housing support for whānau or family

Secure and stable housing helps whānau and families care for their tamariki and rangatahi and support oranga. We advocate for them and provide information about the Fast Track process when tamariki and rangatahi are in the custody of the chief executive.

Ko te whare e hanga te tangata, ko te tangata e hangaia e te whare.

The whare (whare tangata) builds the people and the people build the whare.

Right to adequate housing and our role in advocacy (ngākau whakairo)

Healthy, secure, fit-for-purpose and affordable housing is fundamental to living and working with dignity.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms access to adequate housing as a vital part of human rights. Article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Right to an Adequate Standard of Living) sets out that every child has the right to a standard of living that is adequate to their development – physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social. While parents and guardians have the primary responsibility to provide for the child's material needs, the state also has the responsibility to assist parents and guardians to alleviate poverty.  

Social workers have a professional and ethical responsibility to protect and promote the rights of others. The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers' Ngā Tikanga Matatika (Code of Ethics) includes the value of rangatiratanga, which requires social workers to 'use our practice to advocate for and support self-determination and empowerment of others', while the Social Workers Registration Board's core competency 4 requires that a social worker 'understands, has a commitment to, and advocates for human, legal and civil rights, social and economic justice and self-determination' and core competency 5 requires that a social worker 'advocates the need for social change to provide equity and fairness for all' (bolding added).

Advocating for whānau or family who are experiencing housing instability is one way we can uphold these values and standards.

We may advocate for whānau or family when:

  • we are assessing and responding to concerns for the care or safety of tamariki or rangatahi, and housing insecurity or instability is negatively impacting the oranga (wellbeing) of the whānau or family
  • we are working with whānau or family to return a tamaiti home, and there is a housing issue that needs to be addressed
  • a rangatahi is involved in the youth justice system and the availability of housing for them or their whānau or family impacts their overall oranga
  • a rangatahi who is exiting care needs support to navigate the housing environment
  • we are working with disabled tamariki and rangatahi, and their parents and whānau or family, to protect their rights and support their needs, especially in relation to the provision of appropriate homes and any required adaptations and equipment
  • caregivers of tamariki or rangatahi in care rely on the public housing system to provide appropriate long-term housing outcomes.

Practice reflections

How is my practice ensuring whānau or family rights? How am I promoting and advocating for the rights of tamariki, rangatahi, whānau or family to have safe, secure, appropriate housing?

How am I understanding housing needs as a contribution to oranga for the whānau or family?

How will I ensure they can have the opportunity to develop their own solutions to meet their housing needs and oranga aspirations?

Building our understanding of housing needs (whai mātauranga)

Good-quality housing is more important for the oranga (wellbeing) of tamariki, rangatahi, whānau or family than just having a roof over their heads. Housing quality is intrinsically linked to other oranga outcomes for tamariki and rangatahi and their whānau or family:

  • For whānau Māori, 'home' is both a physical structure and a whānau construct. Māori views of land and housing are strongly associated with whakapapa and guardianship, and recognise social, spiritual, emotional and intergenerational values of manaakitanga – tē tahi ki tē tahi atu. Housing instability can lead to disconnection from community, whānau and whenua, impacting whakapapa and whanaungatanga connections and relationships.
  • Poor or unsafe emergency housing options can place tamariki, rangatahi and other whānau or family members at risk and exacerbate other impacts.
  • Housing affects tinana (physical health). Living in low-quality housing makes tamariki, rangatahi and whānau or family members more likely to experience poor health. When tamariki or rangatahi live in cold, damp or mouldy homes, they are more likely to experience respiratory illnesses and infections. They may also be more susceptible to other preventable health conditions, such as rheumatic fever and skin infections. Overcrowding also increases the risk of transmitting infectious diseases.
  • For tamariki and rangatahi, good-quality housing contributes to stability in school, improved attendance and positive educational outcomes, as well as connection to sports, cultural activities, communities and neighborhoods.
  • Finding and maintaining employment can be difficult, and the development of wealth and financial wellbeing can become impacted.
  • The flow-on effects of instability in housing can erode hope and self-worth, and contribute to or exacerbate stress and poor mental health.
  • Instability of housing is a leading factor that contributes to whānau or families becoming involved with the child welfare system, and rangatahi with foster care histories also face increased risk of housing instability when they leave care.

Housing quality | Child and Youth Wellbeing

Many factors may contribute to why housing instability exists for whānau and families, including social issues like drug or alcohol harm, family violence, mental illness, financial issues, community deprivation, insufficient housing options, rising costs, discrimination or intergenerational disadvantage. For whānau Māori, this includes the impact of colonisation that resulted in land alienation and resulting economic disadvantage.

Some population groups in Aotearoa New Zealand are at greater risk of experiencing severe housing deprivation, with Māori, Pacific peoples and disabled people experiencing the highest rates. Evidence before the Waitangi Tribunal's WAI2750 Kaupapa Inquiry into Māori Housing Policy and Services has identified the intergenerational impacts of years of insufficient response to Māori housing issues.

Understanding whānau or family housing needs and aspirations

When supporting whānau or family to obtain secure housing, we partner with whānau or family to understand their housing needs and aspirations, and what impact housing is having on them, and we advocate for their housing needs to be addressed.

To help us build a shared understanding, we:

  • work with whānau or family to understand their experience, and how housing instability is impacting on them, and what steps can be taken to mediate negative impacts and enhance oranga (wellbeing) while the underlying issue (housing instability) is addressed
  • listen to what tamariki and rangatahi are telling us about the impact where they are living has on their oranga, and what their aspirations or wishes are regarding their home
  • ask what whenua or rohe (area) provide important connections for the whānau or family
  • find out who needs to be considered as part of the whānau or family group that needs housing, such as tamariki, grandparents, extended family members
  • find out if whānau or family members have any accessibility issues that need to be met
  • talk with the whānau or family about how their home supports whānau or family life, and their aspirations for renting, ownership, state dependence or wealth creation.

Responding to housing needs of specific communities

Whānau Māori and Pacific families may have different housing needs than other groups in Aotearoa New Zealand – for example, there may be specific needs associated with larger whānau or family size, cultural traditions, and strong values of manaakitanga. Pacific cultural traditions, roles and responsibilities of guardianship, care and upholding cultural and family ways of being within their home create specific housing needs. Pacific families will often want to live close to where they have strong connections, such as family members, church, communities, schools, sports or employment. Connection to tūrangawaewae for whānau Māori is significant. Intergenerational living is valued and serves to promote whakapapa and whanaungatanga connections, and also creates specific housing needs.

People with physical and intellectual impairments and people experiencing mental health issues also have specific needs and often experience difficulty accessing housing. People with a physical impairment often find housing isn't designed or adapted for their needs. Housing difficulties are known to be a significant issue for mental health service users.

Refugees and other immigrant communities may also have specific housing needs, and it is recognised that appropriate housing plays a critical role in their successful integration into communities. Housing that provides security, space and privacy and allows integration and connection with others is seen as important, and many families who arrive from overseas will seek to live close to others who they share experience, culture and a sense of connectedness with.  

Most whānau or family will desire housing close to transport, jobs and other opportunities, and housing needs to be affordable and a mix of sizes and types that meet the diverse needs of individuals and whānau or family.

A number of government action plans and strategies recognise the inequitable experience and disadvantage of some population groups and are designed to provide a targeted housing response:  

  • MAIHI Ka Ora (National Māori Housing Strategy) – this strategy elevates the Māori and Iwi Housing Innovation (MAIHI) Framework for Action, providing a strategic direction that puts Māori at the heart of Aotearoa New Zealand's housing system.
  • Fale mo Aiga (Pacific Housing Strategy and Action Plan 2030) – Fale mo Aiga means 'houses for families' and aims to support Pacific families to meet their housing needs and aspirations, and provides a pathway for home ownership for Pacific peoples.
  • New Zealand Disability Strategy Outcome 5 – this outcome focuses on accessibility, and specifically sets out that disabled people have 'access to warm, safe and affordable housing that meets our needs and enables us to make choices about where we go to school or work and to fully participate as members of our families, whānau and communities'. To that end, Kāinga Ora Homes and Communities has an accessibility policy that 'recognises the need to identify and remove barriers faced by all disabled people and achieve greater accessibility by aligning with a culture that recognises the dignity and worth of every individual, within a household, within a community'.

Caregivers, whānau or family will sometimes need us to work closely with them to gain access to housing to support the care arrangement of tamariki or rangatahi in the custody of the chief executive. It is appropriate that we assist caregivers, whānau or family to navigate the government and non-government housing systems, providing advocacy to access housing and housing supports, such as the Public Housing Fast Track system.

Non-government responses to housing needs

We need to also be aware of and access non-governmental options for support. Seek out information about what is available where whānau or family want to live and learn about who else is providing housing within that community. Consider linking with local iwi, the Māori Women's Welfare League, Māori and community providers and other local initiatives.

We have a key responsibility to advocate for whānau or family and this requires us to have local knowledge and connections within the housing sector. We should check what relationships our site has in place, and also share with the site any relationships we hold individually.

Practice reflections

How can I partner with whānau or family to understand the impact housing is having on their whānau or family? What steps can we take together to mediate negative impacts and enhance or strengthen oranga (wellbeing) while sustainable solutions are explored?  

How do I support whānau or family to sustain a connection to the whenua and look at ways to make housing solutions sustainable, innovative and responsive to individual and whānau or family needs?

Working with whānau or family to achieve their oranga aspirations (whai oranga)

We work with whānau or family to understand the situation and their aspirations for the oranga (wellbeing) of their tamariki, rangatahi and whānau or family. Whānau or family are our partners in this work. We work closely and relationally with them and tamariki and rangatahi to help us understand the situation, and advocate for them when necessary.

Within Oranga Tamariki, oranga is a way of thinking about how we respond effectively to the holistic wellbeing of tamariki, rangatahi, whānau or family.

There are 6 interconnected dimensions of oranga that, if in balance, contribute to optimal experiences of oranga. We understand oranga as a holistic and inclusive concept, embracing multiple dimensions of wellbeing that encompass ngākau – emotional wellbeing, wairua – cultural wellbeing, whānau – family wellbeing, tinana – physical wellbeing, waiora – environmental wellbeing, and hinengaro – mental wellbeing. Oranga represents a holistic view of self, health and wellbeing.

Dimensions of oranga

The 6 dimensions of oranga.

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While all aspects of oranga are important, the notion of waiora encapsulates the importance of the environment in which we live and that significantly impacts on the health and wellbeing of individuals, whānau or family and communities. 'Waiora' literally refers to water, both as a resource and as an essential part of the environment that provides sustenance for life. This dimension of oranga includes understanding the natural, physical and social environments in which whānau or family live, the systems operating within those environments, and their impact on tamariki, rangatahi and whānau oranga, autonomy and participation. It includes advocacy for the rights of tamariki, rangatahi and whānau or family, supporting them to identify barriers, such as housing, that prevent the realisation of oranga aspirations.

Te Toka Tumoana

While Te Toka Tūmoana is the practice model for working effectively with tamariki/mokopuna, rangatahi and whānau Māori, its takepū (principles) can also support our practice with all tamariki, rangatahi and whānau or family, Māori and non-Māori. All Te Toka Tūmoana takepū are relevant to this mahi and work in an interconnected way to promote safety and oranga. The following takepū are particularly relevant when thinking about housing issues for the tamariki, rangatahi and whānau or family we are working with.

Rangatiratanga is enabling whānau or family self-determination. We do this by:

  • supporting whānau or family to identify their housing needs and aspirations, considering issues such as connection to whenua, whanaungatanga relationships and whakapapa
  • supporting whānau or family as they engage with housing providers, working alongside them and advocating when necessary
  • providing information and practical support to support whānau or family as they build knowledge, leadership and self-advocacy.

Kaitiakitanga refers to the roles, responsibilities and obligations to protect, keep safe, support and sustain tamariki, rangatahi and whānau or family oranga.

We work with the whānau or family to understand how the care, stability and security of te tamaiti or rangatahi are being protected and promoted. We:

  • seek a shared understanding with whānau or family around the impact of housing instability on their collective oranga
  • build understanding of who within the whānau or family forms part of the 'home' picture, and how safe housing contributes to the oranga of all whānau or family members – for example, how having extended whānau or family members living together influences oranga for the whānau or family
  • seek a shared understanding on the impact of housing instability on te tamaiti or rangatahi – for example, issues associated with safe sleeping (particularly if overcrowding is a concern), physical health, impact on schooling attendance and stability, and friendships and connections.
    Safe sleeping and Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI)
  • work with whānau or family to reduce negative impacts and improve safety and oranga for te tamaiti or rangatahi, while continuing to work on the underlying issue of housing instability.

Whakamanawa is emancipation based on potential that challenges and transforms oppression for tamariki, rangatahi and whānau or family. To support this, we:

  • recognise the right of whānau or family to have safe, stable, affordable housing that promotes and sustains their oranga
  • empower whānau or family to take an active role in determining their housing aspirations
  • advocate for, and escalate, issues on their behalf when agreed with them
  • use knowledge of and networks within the housing sector to support the housing aspirations of whānau or family
  • work with whānau or family to consider housing pathways that best meet their needs and aspirations – exploring iwi, community and other housing options for whānau or family
  • we consider how involvement with kairaranga ā-whānau and Pacific cultural advisors can help us relate with whānau or family by drawing on their cultural expertise and community networks.

Practice reflections

How can I use the Te Toka Tūmoana takepū to support my engagement, understanding and advocacy for the whānau or family?

How can I use Va'aifetū principles to support relational, inclusive and restorative support and advocacy for Pacific families?

How am I demonstrating a commitment to family rights, supports and advocacy as we work together addressing housing needs that will support and enhance their oranga?

How am I demonstrating partnering with the whānau or family as we work together to address housing-related needs?

Building understanding and providing advocacy to whānau or family (whai pūkenga)

Many of the whānau or families we work with are in vulnerable housing situations. Understanding their situation and supporting them to achieve their housing aspirations requires a full range of communication and advocacy skills.

Active listening and empathy are key skills in creating a trusting relationship and a mutual understanding of the housing issues for whānau or family. Active listening means being genuinely involved in the conversation, providing feedback to the person we're talking to and responding appropriately.

Once a mutual understanding has been established, discuss with the whānau or family what their advocacy needs are and, with their consent, advocate on their behalf if appropriate. Skills and attributes required for advocacy include:

  • relational practice to build understanding of whānau or family needs and aspirations
  • communicating persuasively and clearly with agencies on behalf of the whānau or family
  • networking – knowing who is involved in the sector and how to establish and use relationships and connections
  • influencing decision makers within the housing sectors
  • persistence and follow-through to continue to promote and advocate for the needs of the whānau or family
  • creativity – thinking outside the box, and looking for bespoke and responsive solutions to achieve whānau or family housing aspirations.

A central component of advocacy is understanding what the whānau or family wants to achieve and working in partnership with them.  

Advocacy for parents and whānau or family

Practice reflections

How have I used relational practice skills to develop a shared understanding of housing needs and aspirations of the whānau or family?

How do I understand my role as an advocate and do I have the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively advocate?

Whai ākona

Supervision and reflexive practices strengthen our responses and deepen our understanding of how we are working with whānau or family. Use these processes to consider how understanding housing needs is contributing to building a shared picture of understanding with the whānau or family, and how working together to address housing instability can positively impact on oranga (wellbeing).

Practice reflections

What helps me to take a wide view in terms of oranga needs for this tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family? How am I looking past the presenting issues to understand the broader social issues (like housing) that are impacting on the whānau or family?

How is my understanding of the broader issues for the whānau or family influencing my approach to addressing any concerns and supporting oranga? Is anything getting in the way of deepening my understanding and support?

Does the whānau or family see me as an advocate for them in terms of housing needs? How does this sit with my role as an Oranga Tamariki social worker? Is this approach to advocacy working or is a different approach required?

Advocating as an individual can be challenging – how am I maximising the relationships my site has with government, and Māori and community providers to advocate for this whānau or family? How do I understand the systems levers to available to influence change?

Key government agencies and their roles

Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga Ministry of Housing and Urban Development shapes the strategies and work programme for housing and urban development in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Kāinga Ora Homes and Communities provides tenancy services in nearly 69,000 public houses, as well as home ownership products and other services.

Ministry of Social Development (Work and Income) undertakes assessments on behalf of Kāinga Ora and other providers to ascertain eligibility for public housing.