By RNZ’s Phil Pennington
Oranga Tamariki has had no meetings with Maori to design new child sexual abuse services even as unmet demand grows.
The agency says it is still in a relationship-building phase with those it will contract with and has no target date for launching services, four years after the start of an inter- anti-violence agencies and 18 months after originally planned to begin design. .
A major national Maori supplier says the agency appears to have made “little progress” and lacks strategy.
Existing crisis support and other sexual violence services are under enormous pressure, and Oranga Tamariki (OT) is tasked with introducing new ones.
Children are the victims of more than two-thirds of all sexual abuse charges brought to court, but receive virtually no support in court, where research has found that adult lawyers often accuse them of lying.
The number of children and adolescents in care exhibiting harmful sexual behaviors has increased by 50% over the past five years.
RNZ reported in December that OT had to return $4.5 million of the $11 million earmarked for new sexual violence services to the government because it had not spent it.
OT defended the underutilization, saying it had changed tack to offer co-design services with Maori vendors so it was running at their pace.
RNZ asked how many co-design meetings he had.
OT, in a new OIA response, said none.
“No meetings have taken place with the iwi and the Maori for this purpose,” its chief executive of public, corporate and executive services, Steve Groom, told the OIA.
“Our engagement with our partners is focused on building trust, understanding and meeting their needs so that we can then help them deliver appropriately designed services,” said Rachel Jones, Deputy Managing Director of Partnership. for the results, in a press release.
“We expect discussions with our partners to move towards covering co-design service options, but no target date has been set.”
He did not give any time frame either for the start of the co-design meetings or for the start of the services.
“No target date has been set,” Jones said.
“It would not be appropriate for us to provide you with dates that have not been previously discussed and agreed with our partners.”
Existing services still work but they are not co-designed.
It has talks in five regions: Te Tai Tokerau, Waikato, Wellington, South Canterbury, Otago and Southland; the agency would not name vendors for business reasons until a deal was done. The partners were under pressure from the pandemic, Jones said.
OT hinted that discussions with suppliers could last at least another six months.
A pilot program in South Canterbury is underway, helping teachers identify and deal with harmful sexual behavior at school.
The agency declined to tell RNZ where its spending on new services stands, after underspending by $4.5 million last year.
The work is part of a government violence prevention program involving 10 agencies launched in 2018 and culminating in the Te Aorerekura national strategy last December.
OT said it was regionally focused, and “at the national level, we are focused on growing our relationship with Te Ohaakii a Hine – National Network to End Sexual Violence Together (TOAH-NNEST).” This network covers a multitude of tangata whenua services.
TOAH-NNEST spokespersons said they were pleased with the establishment of “new relationships of trust”, but services were still sorely lacking.
“There are a series of resource shortages that hamper those who already work in this field on a daily basis, including contract funding and enough specifically skilled and trained workers. Specialized Kaupapa Māori VS services in particular are in short supply,” said Joy Te Wiata for Ngā Kaitiaki Mauri and Maggy. Tai Rākena for Tauiwi Caucus in a joint statement.
The $4.5 million underspending was “disheartening” for struggling suppliers, they said.
“TOAH-NNEST is still unclear what Oranga Tamariki’s overall strategy is to address child sexual abuse…regardless of who it provides support and solutions to. how Oranga Tamariki plans to tackle the tasks at Te Aorerekura. [the national strategy] that require their input.”
The agency had disbanded its sexual violence project team a few years ago “and it appears that little progress has been made since then in addressing the needs of the tamariki and rangatahi who experience sexual violence in Aotearoa”, several groups of work that came to nothing, they said.
Their network “would like to see a project group focused on sexual violence re-established in Oranga Tamariki”.
In December, Children’s Commissioner Frances Eivers said she would seek a briefing from OT on her “disappointing” and unexplained understanding.
Judge Eivers told RNZ this week that she has not yet requested this briefing, but will do so “in the near future”.
The Department of Social Development (MSD) is assessing the impact of the additional $90 million budget it has had available for sexual violence services since 2019-20.
It is focused on adult services. Only one of the six evaluation documents published by MSD has anything to say about services for children.
The September 2021 report says providers noted there was “a clear difference between what is offered to adults and what is offered to children”, with a particular gap noted for court support.
Sexual Abuse – Where to Get Help
If it is an emergency and you think you or someone else is in danger, call 111.
If you have ever been the victim of sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone, contact Safe to Talk confidentially, anytime, 24/7:
• Call 0800 044 334
• Text 4334
• Email [email protected]
• For more information or to chat visit safetotalk.nz
You can also contact your local police station – click here for a list.
If you’ve been sexually assaulted, remember that it’s not your fault.