Oranga Tamariki uplifts 'should be the last resort' - Simon Bridges

The AM Show 19/06/2019

Simon Bridges says an Oranga Tamariki decision to uplift a child should be a last resort, but the practice needs to continue.

A spotlight was shone on the practice after a 45-minute-long video from Newsroom.co.nz showed the process undertaken to remove a baby boy from his mother at Hawke's Bay hospital.

According to Newsroom, Oranga Tamariki failed to notify the mother or baby's family he would be uplifted, tried to take him multiple times after injunctions were filed and eventually locked family and midwives out of the hospital while in a standoff with the mother to try and uplift the child in the early hours of the morning.

Bridges wouldn't comment on the case specifically, telling The AM Show it would not be appropriate as it's now under review.

But he did say uplifts should not be easy.

Uplift should be the last resort.

"It shouldn't be something that Oranga Tamariki goes to with any sort of ease.

"They have to have huge concerns go through a court process, but regrettably, there will need to be uplifts."

Bridges said he would prefer for the child to stay with family, but safety needs to be paramount.

"We all accept and understand we want children to stay with their families, with their whanau, but where there's serious drug problems, where there's serious violence or so on and the child isn't safe, look there will need to be uplifts."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made similar comments on Tuesday, saying there needs to be a balance between keeping children with family or keeping them safe.

"There will be circumstances where, keeping in mind these are court ordered, where the court orders uplifts on behalf of children, and I have to say that I think no matter what, uplifts are traumatic things," she said.

No one wants kids in state care.

"But at the same time, no one wants children in unsafe environments."

Oranga Tamariki has announced a review, led by chief social worker Grant Bennett, into the attempted uplift in the Hawke's Bay.

It will 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.

Minister for Children Tracey Martin, Ngāti Kahungunu, the Māori Council, agreed at a hui on Sunday Oranga Tamariki will now work more closely with the iwi to prevent a baby going into state care.

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Katie Fitzgerald