Oranga Tamariki Minister Tracey Martin admits Hawke's Bay attempted uplift wasn't 'well done'

The AM Show 19/06/2019

The Minister responsible for Oranga Tamariki admits the attempted uplift of a baby in Hawke's Bay wasn't ideal ahead of a review of the case.

Last week, a Newsroom video investigation revealed officials attempting to take a baby from his family at Hawke's Bay Hospital.

The uplift process has come under fire for isolating the mother from her midwife and whanāu late at night while officials tried to take the baby. Oranga Tamariki eventually gave up after a long standoff and the case is before the courts.

The case has prompted calls for a moratorium on Oranga Tamariki uplifts and led to an inquiry, to be held by the Children's Commissioner, into the agency's protection of Māori children under three months old.

An internal review will also be held into the Hawke's Bay case, with Children's Minister Tracey Martin announcing on Tuesday that it would look at the period between February 12 and May 9 - the period from which Oranga Tamariki first became aware the mother was pregnant until when the mother and baby were discharged from hospital.

"I know many people have been deeply impacted by the recent events in the Hawkes Bay," Martin said.

"The review will provide an opportunity for the voices of the mother, father and whānau to be heard and for their views to be considered."

Tracey Martin. Photo credit: The Nation.

On The AM Show on Wednesday, Martin said she doesn't expect "anybody is going to say in hindsight things couldn't have been done better".

Everybody in that room was negatively impacted by what happened.

"I don't think anybody says it was well done on all sides there."

The review's terms of reference were also revealed on Tuesday and it will focus on three objectives - understanding what happened from the perspective of all parties involved, identifying what can be learned from a local and national perspective, and strengthening local relationships.

It will look at the engagement with whanāu, iwi and other professionals, as well as the quality of planning, method of processes and how Oranga Tamariki worked with other agencies.

"It is important to remember that Oranga Tamariki never works in isolation," Martin said in a statement.

"Whenever a child is removed from their parents' care a court order by a judge is required."

That decision is made on the basis that the safety of the child is paramount.

It will include looking at if the communication relating to the custody application was sufficient and whether it was appropriate for application to be made 'without notice'.

Martin said on Wednesday that she wanted to understand the full context of what happened, not just what was shown in the Newsroom video documentary.

The review will be led by chief social worker Grant Bennett, who told Newshub it would be thorough.

"In developing the terms of reference and also how we undertake the review, we have consulted with Ngāti Kahungunu and also the Office of the Children's Commissioner. So what we are putting forward is a very, very robust methodology," Bennett said.

A member of Ngāti Kahungunu will also provide independent oversight.

Bennett said he hoped the review highlighted some lessons and restored relationships.

"What we hope to get from it is any lessons learnt from both a national and a local perspective, and most importantly, restore any relationships and strengthen those relationships so we can improve the way we work in the future".

The review is expected to be finished by the end of July and whether the findings are made public is yet to be decided.

One outcome of a hui on Sunday between relevant parties, like the Minister, Ngāti Kahungunu, the Māori Council, is that Oranga Tamariki will now work more closely with the iwi to prevent a baby going into state care.

Martin also defended Oranga Tamariki's social workers on Wednesday, saying they will put into very difficult situations.

"We say to them 'you can't say anything, you can't defend yourselves. We need you to continue to do your job, which we the New Zealand public have asked you to do, to stand in front of children being harmed.'"

"Unfortunately, these are the very decisions they have to make".

The AM Show / Newshub reporters Jamie Ensor & Hayley Jacobsen