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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/care/caring-for-tamariki-in-care/support-for-play-recreation-and-community-activities/
Printed: 24/04/2024
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Last updated: 01/07/2019

Support for play, recreation and community activities

We must ensure that support is provided to tamariki and rangatahi in care to meet their needs for play, recreation and participation in community activities, including supporting, and assisting caregivers to promote these activities.

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

National Care Standards

The National Care Standards Regulation 34 requires us to ensure that support is provided to address the play, recreational and community needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi:

  • to meet their need for access to a range of age and developmentally appropriate books, toys and recreational equipment, and
  • to meet their need for establishing and maintaining peer and community relationships, and
  • for attending and participating in sporting and cultural activities, and
  • for their involvement in community and volunteering activities, and
  • to provide opportunities for play and experiences, and
  • for arrangements for the payment of pocket money to te tamaiti or rangatahi at a level appropriate to their age and circumstances, and
  • to enable them to participate in sporting or cultural activities (for example, by paying fees for attending noho marae, or membership fees for participating in kapa haka or sporting clubs, or fees for music lessons).

The importance of play, recreation and community activities

Tamariki and rangatahi in care or custody have the same needs as all other tamariki and rangatahi in New Zealand to feel connected with their communities, have enduring relationships with their peers and be participating in activities that build their confidence. An ability to access and participate in such activities contributes to the holistic wellbeing of tamariki and rangatahi. These are rights that we need to support and build into the All About Me plan for tamariki and rangatahi.

Play is an important component of these activities throughout their ages and stages of development. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRoC), ratified by New Zealand in 1993, defines universal principles and standards for the status and treatment of tamariki worldwide. Article 31 of UNCRoC affirms the right of tamariki to play.

The NZ Ministry of Health’s physical activity guidelines for tamariki and rangatahi (aged 5 to 17) and for under-5s recognise the importance of play in ensuring rangatahi are active and helping them develop socially, emotionally and cognitively.

Activities for children and young people — Ministry of Health

Being involved in play, recreation and community activities helps tamariki and rangatahi to develop a sense of self-worth and feel proud of themselves. They allow tamariki and rangatahi to pursue something meaningful and productive as they learn new skills and build pro-social relationships through sporting and other activities. Tamariki and rangatahi have said:

  • being involved in extracurricular activities was important to help tamariki to establish and sustain friendships
  • being involved in extracurricular activities helped some tamariki feel more connected to their culture
  • social workers were crucial to helping get the right resources and equipment that tamariki needed to access extracurricular activities
  • caregivers played an important role in enabling tamariki to access extracurricular activities.

Sport and physical activity are viewed by tamariki and rangatahi as being an important way to develop social networks. Engagement and achievement in play, recreation, and community activities is another important facet of overall engagement and achievement in education.

For tamariki Māori participation can help them build their connections with others. This is consistent with the principles of mana tamaiti, whakapapa, and whakawhanaungatanga, which aligns with the whakamana te tamaiti practice standard. Play and recreation can be a safe and fun way for te tamaiti to grow their knowledge of their whakapapa connections, build comfort with te reo and understand underlying values and traditions of their whānau, hapū, iwi and marae through things like kapa haka and waka ama.

Whakamana te tamaiti: Practice empowering tamariki Māori

There will be tamariki and rangatahi from cultures where religion and community activities play a significant part in their lives. These aspects and differences need to be considered, explained and discussed with te tamaiti or rangatahi, their caregiver and their whānau, and we have to ensure their plan reflects how they will continue to be accessible to tamariki and rangatahi.

Culture, belonging and identity

Play, recreation and community activities can provide tamariki and rangatahi with a sense of normality and a time to just enjoy something with their peers and friends where their past trauma, loss and care journey may be less stigmatising and front of mind.

Assessment of need

Each tamaiti and rangatahi will have differing needs in relation to play, recreation and community activities. How we better understand and capture those needs is through the Tuituia assessment.

The Tuituia assessment domains of te ao huri huri, education, and learning and achievement help to achieve this assessment.

Policy: Assessment

Te ao huri huri — Tuituia domain

Education — Tuituia domain

Learning and achievement — Tuituia domain

When we provide this support

Policy: All About Me plan

Tamariki and rangatahi plans always need to reflect how their play, recreation and community activities needs are being met.

The needs assessment and plan must highlight the voice of te tamaiti or rangatahi and the views of significant whānau or family and other important people in their life. This is outlined in the following practice standards:

Whakamana te tamaiti: Practice empowering tamariki Māori

See and engage tamariki

Work closely in partnership with others

Views of tamariki and rangatahi

Tamariki and rangatahi have told us that they want the opportunity to choose a sport or hobby and if they like it, they want help to develop their skills and interests.

“I think if you can take the opportunities when you’re young, you can go really far.”

“Playing football has helped me become more confident and learn new skills. I have also made a lot of friends.”

Our engagement with them when we visit and taking the time to get to know their interests is vital to supporting their play, recreation and community activities.

We need to capture aspirations of tamariki and rangatahi and, while these might change over time, it is important to respond to their dreams and goals in practical ways. These aspirations are captured in their Tamariki All About Me plan.

We know that sometimes young tamariki may talk about an aspiration that seems unachievable or we feel we cannot build into their plan. However we need to be creative and work with them, their caregivers and whānau to reflect the aspiration. For example, te tamaiti may express a wish to be an astronaut. There may be an observatory they could be taken to or a magazine specific to space we could get for them, or an activity in a book they could do related to space and rockets. It may be they want to be an All Black and joining them up with a local rugby team and supporting whānau financially with buying them an All Black cap helps them realise their dreams and make them feel listened to and supported.

The views and needs of tamariki will change over time

Tamariki and rangatahi go through different stages of being interested in activities like playing a musical instrument or a sport and then find they do not enjoy the activity as much as they thought they would. This is normal behaviour as they find their way in the world and we need to understand what gives them enjoyment and challenge and ensure they have access to a wide range of choices. We need to expect them to change their minds, listen to them and support them to find other activities they do enjoy and regularly check in with them how they are going and if their planned activities are meeting their needs.

Age will also affect the types of things te tamaiti may be involved with. Very young preschool tamariki may be best supported through attendance at activities with their caregiver such as playgroups or groups such as Mainly Music. Primary school tamariki will have access to extracurricular activities through their school community which can expose them to a range of different interests. Older rangatahi will value more unstructured time with peers which should be supported safely where possible. However, they may also need support to gain greater mastery of specific skills and talents such as through representative sports, or musical or cultural activities.

Each time we review the plan and tamariki or rangatahi want to talk about their Tamariki All About Me plan is an opportune time to review their activities.

Actively supporting participation

Whānau, caregivers and other important people have a role to play in supporting te tamaiti to participate in play, recreation and communities, and so do we. A great way to build a relationship with tamariki and rangatahi is by:

  • taking them to an activity
  • watching them play sport or perform in a cultural or musical performance
  • attend assemblies where tamariki might receive an award
  • attend celebrations at the end of the term or year.

If tamariki or rangatahi are unable to identify for themselves things they may be good at or interested in doing we need to think about what may be behind this. It may be a lack of confidence or shyness in asking for something. It may be that they have never been asked what they would like to do before and this is not a comfortable conversation for them. It is important to go back to these conversations at another time and bring some options of activities to allow them to think about. You could use things like YouTube clips so tamariki get a real idea about what activities could look like and whether they would enjoy it.

You may be able to talk with a teacher about what they have observed tamariki or rangatahi showing an interest in at school or what they like to play with. You could then make this suggestion when you are talking with them next to see if their interest is conveyed to you or their caregiver. Or the school themselves could be asked to play a more active role in supporting te tamaiti to increase participation.

Views of kaitiaki and caregivers

Caregivers have also told us that tamariki and rangatahi need opportunities and support to try different activities and discover their potential.

“All children and young people need a passion to pursue, and it’s terribly sad that so many don’t have the opportunity.”

“They all have great potential in some area but it is being missed. All it takes is someone to be there to take them to practice, pay the fees, and make sure they have the gear. You never know where it could lead them.”

We need to listen to caregivers' views about how they think tamariki and rangatahi are enjoying activities and seek feedback on their observations of how they are participating and if they are making friendships and enjoying their peers while participating in play and recreation.

We may need to encourage caregivers to think about what experiences could support the individual tamaiti they are caring for which may be different than the kind of activies they may have considered for their own tamariki. Where caregivers are from a different cultural background to tamariki they are caring for, we need to ensure they have the knowledge to support play and recreation activities that have particular significance to te tamaiti.

Views of whānau, hapū and iwi

Talking with whānau about their aspirations for their tamariki and rangatahi is critical to ensuring plans reflect their views and this keeps them connected and engaged with te tamaiti. The All About Me plan captures these aspirations — for example, whānau, hapū and iwi for a rangatahi want him to be able to speak on marae, engage in powhiri and participate in kapa haka. It is very important we ensure rangatahi know about these aspirations held for them and, with their agreement, we support and engage them in these activities. The plan could include significant whānau, hapū and iwi members taking responsibility to guide the rangatahi through these activities.

Who provides support

The allocated social workers need to take responsibility to plan and make arrangements jointly, with and for te tamaiti or rangatahi, and also with their whānau or family, family group and carers. Caregiver social workers should also be included in this planning.

Tamariki will need support and assistance to get engaged, participate and do well at their chosen activities. They need to be encouraged and given the confidence to help them do well and get enjoyment from their activities.

Some tamariki and rangatahi will already be participating in various activities that need to be continued and maintained with minimum disruption when they come into care or move between care arrangements.

The All About Me plan needs to reflect specifically who and how the support is to be provided for play, recreation and support. This needs to be reviewed regularly to ensure there are no barriers to tamariki and rangatahi continuing to participate. Where te tamaiti or rangatahi are also in youth justice custody, both care and protection and youth justice social workers will need to work together alongside residential staff and community remand homes, to manage any support required.

Residences offer many opportunities for tamariki and rangatahi to experience and try different activities, which can be continued in the community after they transition from residence.

What does support include

Support includes meeting the needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi to access a range of age and developmentally appropriate books, toys and recreational equipment. It is important to ensure these are readily accessible to them.

In addition, it includes meeting the needs of te tamaiti with respect to establishing and maintaining peer and community relationships, such as:

  • school teams
  • sports clubs
  • scouts or girl guides
  • kapa haka
  • waka ama
  • pacific performance groups and polynesian clubs
  • music, such as singing or learning an instrument
  • dance and drama
  • arts and craft
  • library membership.

We need to ensure financial support is available to enable their play, recreation and community activities and make any payments for things like sports fees a priority to enable full participation. While Incidental Expenditure Cards should not be used for planned costs, remember that you can use the card to make small purchases to acknowledge te tamaiti, celebrate their success or encourage their participation in these activities.

Policy: Support for tamariki in care or custody

Working with Māori: Te Toka Tūmoana

Working with Pacific peoples: Va'aifetū

Staff resource: Incidental Expenditure Payment (IEP) cards

Part of our role is to help broaden the outlook and views of te tamaiti or rangatahi. We should be creative in suggesting the many different opportunities and activities available to them as they may not have been aware of, or been exposed to, these experiences in the past.

It’s important to keep parents, whānau or family, family groups and carers informed and engaged (where it is safe to do so) so they can have the opportunity to be a spectator to support and celebrate the participation and achievements of their tamaiti or rangatahi. If safety considerations create difficulties in direct participation and attendance then consider other ways to ensure parents and whānau or family can be kept involved, such as photos or videos. Think ahead to visits between tamariki and their whānau. Encourage play and recreation activities as safe areas of engagement that parents and whānau may like to talk to te tamaiti about. This will help te tamaiti feel confident that they have the support of whānau in their involvement with activities which they enjoy and are important to them.

The life story book should include a record of participation and achievements of te tamaiti where their photos, certificates and memories can be kept.

Maintaining a record of important life events

How we provide support

Caregivers may need information and support, including financial support, and assistance to help them meet the needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi in their care with their play, recreation and community activities.

Providing support may need to be managed sensitively especially when there may be other tamariki or rangatahi in the home, including the caregivers’ own tamariki or rangatahi, who aren’t in care and don’t have access to the level of support available from Oranga Tamariki.

Support generally involves time and costs. For instance, caregivers may like to take te tamaiti or rangatahi to a sporting, social or cultural event. This could involve travelling away from home to attend sports tournaments and other competitions like waka ama, kapa haka performances, whānau reunions, and other cultural events and activities.

In these situations, consider who may need to give consent for te tamaiti or rangatahi to take part in activities or events, particularly where overnight stays are involved, such as camps, sporting events or tournaments, and cultural competitions.

Care needs to be taken to ensure that the privacy of information about tamariki and rangatahi is managed and safeguarded to avoid tamariki and rangatahi being singled out or stigmatised for being in care.

Support for caregivers

Policy: Caregiver support

Caregiver kete (PDF 1.82 MB) | orangatamariki.govt.nz

Barriers to participation

When tamariki and rangatahi enter care or transition to new care arrangements they are often separated from their usual peer groups and familiar communities. They may or may not have been enrolled in such things as sports and activity groups and it is very important that we assess this area of need.

We need to take into account what tamariki and rangatahi enjoy doing and what fulfilment they can achieve by being supported to engage in things they prefer and enjoy doing. We need to work with caregivers to find ways to retain their participation in any activities and/or enrol them in activities they want to do and caregivers are able to support them to attend.

Transport to and from such activities can be a challenge particularly when caregivers have other tamariki in their care. We have to find ways to overcome any transport barriers to ensure tamariki can achieve these goals. It may be something that a whānau member or significant person in their life could accompany them to and this commitment is built into their All About Me plan.

For tamariki or rangatahi to have someone special in their life watching them play a sports game or attend a kapa haka session can be very affirming and help tamariki and rangatahi have a sense of pride and achievement. We need to support this to happen and ensure finances or transport issues are not getting in the way of achieving it.

We need to consider whether language is a barrier to feeling confident in participating in activities. If tamariki and rangatahi in care are living in a community with people of a different culture and the new way of living everyday lives is different from their own experiences it may be hard for them to identify something they are interested in participating in.

Past trauma can impede the ability of tamariki and rangatahi to express what they might like or enjoy doing and we need to recognise that may be a factor and seek advice and assistance from professionals to help support and develop this area of need.

It's also important to discuss with coaches and teachers in confidence about any particular issues tamariki or rangatahi may have that could affect their participation, so they’re managed and treated appropriately. For example, tamariki and rangatahi who have experienced trauma may need extra support in certain situations where they have specific anxieties or fears. An extra word of encouragement from a coach who has some understanding of the reason for these fears may be all te tamaiti needs to overcome them. Care needs to be taken to maintain the privacy of te tamaiti and you should talk to te tamaiti about what is shared and with whom first, before you share.

Tamariki and rangatahi with disabilities and those who have experienced trauma need to be supported in ways that help them achieve success in their play, recreation and community activities. Success helps build self-esteem and resilience.

We need to expect that some activities will require extra financial support and not allow this to be a barrier to supporting tamariki and rangatahi to achieve their potential. In situations where they are showing particular talent and high achievement we need to ensure constraints are worked through and support is maintained as achieving their full potential and being able to shine is what everyone wants for tamariki and rangatahi.

Tamariki and rangatahi with disabilities

Tamariki and rangatahi with disabilities have the right to have their voices heard and their needs met. They need to be enabled and supported to have the same opportunities as all other tamariki and rangatahi.

Tamariki and rangatahi with disabilities should be encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, play, recreational and community activities ensuring any barriers to participation have been addressed. They may need extra support to do this, for example, adapting communication methods.

It’s a good idea to think about particular support groups associated with the disability te tamaiti might have, for example the Blind Foundation for tamariki with vision impairments. They might have particular advice or suggestions or may hold activities with others which te tamaiti could be involved in. Your Regional Disability Advisor can provide further advice.

Assessment of needs relating to any disability

Tamariki transitioning or leaving care

Maintaining sports and recreational activities is a great way to ensure tamariki and rangatahi are able to keep routines, important connections including friendships with peers, and things that are familiar and fun during periods of significant change.

When te tamaiti or rangatahi moves to another home or residential facility, it’s important that the transition is:

  • responsive to their needs
  • well-planned — wherever possible, te tamaiti or rangatahi, their whānau or family and both the leaving and receiving ‘homes’ should be involved in the planning.

Consider what support is needed during the transition period to enable continuation of cultural, sporting and community activities such as:

  • who will provide transportation
  • what financial assistance will the prospective caregiver receive to provide care during the transition and who will provide this.

The All About Me plan has a section related to transitions and we need to ensure any arrangement for play, recreation and support transfers across to the new care arrangement as much as possible. If tamariki and rangatahi cannot continue with the same arrangements we need to take the time to explain this to them and ensure new activities can start up to meet their needs and wishes.

Policy: Transitions within care

Transitioning between placements

Oranga Tamariki and Sport NZ joint initiative

Oranga Tamariki and Sport NZ have teamed up to improve access to sport and other forms of physical activity for tamariki and rangatahi in care.

The agreement is based on a shared vision of better outcomes for tamariki and rangatahi in care and those at risk of coming into care. 

The agreement formalises Sport NZ's commitment to shift its focus to increase participation of tamariki and rangatahi in care as well as tamariki, rangatahi and whānau or family with low incomes.

You can read about Oranga Tamariki and Sport NZ’s collaboration so far.

Improving outcomes for tamariki through sport

VOYCE Whakarongo Mai

As well as providing advocacy and support to te tamaiti, VOYCE Whakarongo Mai is also a community of tamariki and older rangatahi which connects tamariki with each other through fun activities such as movie nights, adventure park visits and fun days. These events provide opportunities for tamariki to experience different things and also to build a positive view and connection with others who share the same experiences they do of being in care. Keep an eye on their Facebook page and actively encourage tamariki in your care to participate in local events and activities they are offering.