The ‘Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki’ is set to begin operating by April 2017, with Tolley as the current Social Development Minister taking responsibility for it.
Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft criticised the name as “stigmatising and labelling” and has vowed to only use the Maori name “Oranga Tamariki” which meant the wellbeing of our children. He urged all New Zealanders do the same.
He has a point. The name isn’t great. I’m not sure what name is better, but am sure there is one.
However, Tolley said the new name makes it “crystal clear” that it exists to support and protect vulnerable children: “That is its only job. We cannot shy away from this. We can’t hide it and dress it up as something else.”
Pressed on RNZ’s Morning Report on Friday morning about what she’d call the new ministry, Tolley said she would use its formal title but probably also refer to it as “my ministry”.
“I’ll probably call it ‘my ministry’. I’ll use both names and the full name depending on the occasion.”
Asked why it hadn’t just been called the ‘Ministry for Children’, she said the reason was simple.
“We’re not focusing on all New Zealand children, there’s over a million New Zealand children and young people. And most of them are perfectly capable… they live in great families who look after them and make sure they have great futures.”
“This ministry is going to be unashamedly focused on those children that for one reason or another, are vulnerable.”
Tolley has a strong point about this agency is not about all children. I think it is critical that it has a focus on the children in need of state support and intervention.
Most children do not need the state getting involved. We don’t need a Ministry for Children. Most families do a great job raising their kids. An agency that focused on every child would end up serving those in actual need much worse.
So I agree with Tolley that the focus should be on vulnerable children only. However it would be good if there was a name which was slightly less stigmatizing. The name may put some families off make contact.