Main photo: Whanau Oranga kaimahi, Trish Hina, with tamariki from Te Kura Reo Rua o Waikirikiri.
Side photo: Wahine Activate mother, Renee Semmens, straightens the hair of customer, Naleya Ahu, at her business hub in Kaiti Mall. Photo courtesy of Gisborne Herald.
The welfare and wellbeing of Ngati Porou whanau, hapu and communities have been the central focus of Whanau Oranga since our roopu was established as the social services arm of Te Runanga o Ngati Porou in 1992. As our 25th year of operation draws near, Whanau Oranga has taken time over the last 12 months to reflect upon how we can be more effective in helping to improve the lives of our tamariki, maatua and pakeke living at home and in Turanga.
Investigating different ways that kaimahi work with whanau and identifying different strategies to address the serious social issues whanau face today have been essential to this evaluation process. Also helping to shape Whanau Oranga’s new direction, are the learnings taken from two major kaupapa we were involved with this year.
Awhi Whanau is a programme designed to stop the tide of Ngati Porou mokopuna entering State Care. By intervening at the earliest stages when whanau in need are first brought to the attention of Child Youth & Family, Awhi Whanau provides the opportunity for mokopuna and their whanau to be supported through the difficult issues they are facing.
Prior to March 2016, Whanau Oranga kaimahi were not privy to the daily consistency meetings held at the local regional office of Child Youth & Family Service (CYFS). During these meetings, notifications of mokopuna who had been brought to the attention of CYFS were discussed, and CYFS case workers sent to follow up with the families about the concerns raised.
However from March onwards, we negotiated with CYFS to sit around the table and have the opportunity to follow up with Ngati Porou whanau, instead of CYFS staff. As a result of this early intervention by our kaimahi, over a six-month period 65 out of the 69 Ngati Porou whanau who were issued notifications avoided any further engagement with Child Youth & Family.
Over this period Whanau Oranga supported and advocated on behalf of 134 mokopuna in total. This support included working intensively with their whanau by offering a menu of services provided by our team. Among them included: Tuhono Whanau – Family Start services, Budgeting, Restorative Justice, Youth Services, Social Work Intervention, Iwi Justice Panel and Counselling. Using this approach, only 4 out of the 69 whanau we engaged with were referred back to Child Youth & Family.
Although this is a low number, this is still not ideal, as we ultimately aspire to prevent and eliminate all our mokopuna from entering the State Care system. To help achieve this goal, in addition to changing our approach to improving the welfare of our whanau, we are also currently working towards being the first and only care-placement for Ngati Porou mokopuna.
We see the impending reform of Child Youth & Family as providing Ngati Porou with the opportunity for greater involvement in the decision-making processs, with regard to our mokopuna in care. As active Iwi partners through our Memorandum of Understanding with CYFS, the best interests and the future of our mokopuna are our first priority – not the policy and legislative outcomes desired by the State.
Huarahi Pai is the name given to the collaboration between Whanau Oranga and the NZ Police, to support whanau involved with a series of drug-related police raids made earlier this year in the Kaiti community.
The NZ Police approached Whanau Oranga to help provide immediate assistance to the whanau involved in the raids, and ongoing support. A small team of selected Whanau Oranga kaimahi made contact with 20 households and out of all the households, not one asked our kaimahi to leave during their initial visit. Within the households that were affected, there were at least 23 children at home at the time of the raids, their ages ranging from 1 month to 16 years.
Among the support offered by Whanau Oranga included: help with accessing addiction services; counselling for children and adults affected by trauma; food parcels, clothing and financial assistance; support for those having to make court appearances; and support for whanau involved with Child Youth & Family.
Despite the circumstances, positive outcomes have come as a result of Huarahi Pai. Many whanau are making an effort to change their lifestyles and continue to engage in drug and alcohol counselling. Also, the children of whanau we were able to meet with have not been taken away from their families to be placed in CYFS care. Among the feedback we received from whanau included the korero below:
“We were at home when our family house got busted and I was determined to move out of the house. Our family have suffered a lot, I mean a lot. When the Runanga came to see us it didn’t take long before we felt a huge burden lifted, as they guided us at a sad and embarrassing time.”
“We felt isolated and ashamed. Our family did offer support but the shame for us was too much and we could not talk with family. The people that came to see us did not judge us and we are grateful and thankful for their support at that time. They still pop in and see us.”
RE-DESIGNING WHANAU ORANGA
The major learnings we took away from these two kaupapa were in order to be more effective, we need to firstly embed a Whanau Ora approach to our way of working. Instead of just addressing the needs of one individual, we need to place the entire needs of their whanau at the centre of the support we provide.
To execute this way of working would involve looking at the strengths each staff member brings to Whanau Oranga and matching their strengths, experiences and networks with the needs of whanau. For too long we have had to work to the prescribed requirements of government contracts, which favours an individualistic approach, rather than looking at supporting the whanau unit as a whole.
To achieve this, we are negotiating across the range of government agencies we work with to change our reporting practices. As all our services are funded by government contracts (not Treaty Settlement monies) the demands of back office reporting and compliance takes away quality time we could instead be spending at the coal face with whanau. We would like to move to a single reporting system that would decrease the number of contractual reports we have to complete, from 130 down to 4. This would free up the time of our kaimahi to practise a more agile, responsive and innovative way of working with whanau. We have estimated that approx. $250,000 worth of savings (in terms of administration) could be made by reporting in a more effective manner, which we could then channel back to helping our whanau.
As part of our redesign process, we acknowledge that to help whanau who have extremely high needs, requires a longer-term commitment on our behalf. The majority of these whanau are involved with multiple agencies such as CYFS, NZ Police, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Corrections. We would like to focus more on helping these high-risk whanau to turn their lives around, which requires a multiple-pronged, sustained approach from our services, rather than employing a superficial quick fix.
The redesign of Whanau Oranga is a long-term plan and I look forward to reporting on the first stages of the implementation next year.
Senior Manager, Whanau Oranga
To read the other reports from TRONPnui's 2016 Annual Report, as well as other supporting AGM material. Please click here.