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Calls for more action to prevent more Pacific youth going into state care

Alakihihifo Vailala

A Tongan youth advocate is concerned by findings from the recent Independent Children’s Monitor report.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

A youth advocate is calling for more action from Pacific communities to ensure better oversight for young people in state care.

Simulata Pope is a Tongan youth advocate with over a decade of experience who’s voicing her concerns about the findings from a recent Independent Children’s Monitor report.

The report focused on checking that organisations such as Oranga Tamariki are complying with the National Care Standards Regulations.

It showed almost 40 per cent of young people in state care are not being seen regularly by their social worker and that abuse and neglect have increased.

Watch Simulata Pope's full interview on 531pi below:

Speaking on Pacific Mornings with Levi Matautia-Morgan, Pope says: “I think it’s really important to know that social workers are under-resourced … I think we have to just front up and actually acknowledge that the system is not fit for children.”

The report heard from more than 160 young people and over 1000 others, including whanau, caregivers, iwi and Oranga Tamariki employees.

Comments from young people in state care included, “I haven’t seen my social worker [OT] in ages, probably two months at least … in person. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my social worker to be honest.”

Pope says: “They’re [OT] not listening to their kids, they’re not supporting caregivers. And then at the same time, these children are not getting their basic needs met.”

She says from her experience, the Pacific community needs to be strategic to enhance the development of social work.

“We really need to be showing off the ways that we live and parent in terms of our village-based concepts. We really need to be telling this government how that works and why that works for Pacific and Māori children.

“And then on the other hand is that we need more social workers, we need more people with heart and the brains to get into the system and make change.”

Hero image: Tongan youth advocate Simulata Pope. Photo/ Supplied

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