Caregivers have told us that people who look after children do it because they want to make a difference in a child’s life. To support this we provide financial help to meet the day-to-day expenses that looking after a child involves.
In 2019 Oranga Tamariki carried out a review into the financial assistance provided to caregivers. The findings of this review have now been released and Government has agreed that changes need to be made. We’re pleased this has resulted in some immediate additional support for caregivers, and that we can continue to work towards creating a more simplified and equitable caregiver payment system.
What is the review about?
We wanted to take a thorough look at the financial assistance caregivers receive and were asked by the Minister for Children to conduct a full review of the system to ensure it meets the needs of children and their caregivers.
Changes to payments to caregivers have taken place over the years, but there had never been a fundamental review and adjustments have not always kept pace with societal changes.
The review considered the Foster Care Allowance (including the Higher Foster Care Allowance), Orphan’s Benefit, Unsupported Child’s Benefit and their associated payments. It considered the level and consistency of these payments and the appropriateness of the eligibility criteria.
Who did we consult with?
We wanted to hear what caregivers had to say on issues that affect them and the children in their care, including the financial support they receive.
We completed a series of consultation sessions with caregivers across the country throughout June and July 2019 and ran an online questionnaire.
We also consulted with care-experienced young people, Oranga Tamariki staff, and NGOs including iwi/Māori and Pacific organisations.
The engagement findings
The engagement with caregivers found that although most caregivers receive a lot of enjoyment from the role, they would like to feel more valued.
Most caregivers said the payment did not adequately cover the costs of having a child in their care, and for many, becoming a caregiver had impacted on them financially.
We also heard about the unique challenges faced by Māori and Pacific caregivers, and the need for caregivers to access a wide range of support for their wellbeing, along with appropriate training to help them meet the needs of the children they care for.
The Summary of Engagement Findings provides further detail of what was heard during the consultation period.
The review findings
Following the consultation period, the voices of caregivers, care-experienced young people, and a range of stakeholders guided the policy proposals developed for the Minister for Children.
Several issues with caregiver payments were identified. There were inconsistencies between payments which had led to inequities, and the system was overly complex and difficult for caregivers to navigate.
In December 2019 the Minister for Children took the Cabinet paper and the Summary of Engagement Findings to Cabinet to be considered.
The Government response to the review
The Government has agreed to address the findings of the review, including:
- Making some initial changes to address some of the immediate issues.
- A multi-year programme of work to simplify and unify the payment system for all caregiver payments, and ensure that it is equitable.
- An overarching framework to set the direction for the development of an improved system, through a set of objectives and principles.
The Cabinet paper and associated minute provides the full scope of the work programmes.
Initial changes to the system
Initial areas of work have recently been funded through the 2020 Budget to help address the immediate challenges caregivers are facing. These include the $25 increase to the base rate of the Foster Care Allowance and additional respite care support.
This will help to keep placements stable, and ensure caregivers are better placed to meet the reasonable costs of caring for a child.
More information on these initiatives can be found on the Budget 2020 caregiver initiatives page and Minister Martin’s press release announced May 2020.
What's happening now?
This programme of work will take time. The first step was the initiatives through Budget 2020.
The next is to begin the longer-term work to reform the caregiver payment system to create a simpler and more unified system for all caregiver payments.
The Minister for Children is due to report back to Cabinet in November with an update on the progress of this work.
Also available is the proactive release of the Cabinet paper and minute regarding financial assistance for caregivers agreed by Cabinet on 1 May 2019.