FVDRC and Auditor General find public sector is failing to provide whānau-centred support

Mon 03 Apr 2023

Reports from the Family Violence Death Review Committee (FVDRC) and Auditor-General both found that the public sector is struggling to design and work in ways that support whānau aspirations and needs and that are consistent with the aims of Whānau Ora.

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Family Violence Death Review Committee 8th report

The Family Violence Death Review Committee’s (the Committee) 8th report, An ongoing duty to care | He tauwhiro haere te mahi (2023), looks at the experience of children affected by a death resulting from family violence. They reported the need for an after-care system and support for surviving children:

"The lived experiences of whānau and families from in-depth reviews of homicide events highlighted the ongoing impact of the lack of an after-care system. Some surviving children were made homeless, while others struggled with drug and alcohol problems. Some participants spoke clearly about difficulties in establishing safe and stable support structures."

The Committee followed the approach described in their 7th Report, by looking at the barriers to whānau and families finding the support they need, rather than blaming them for not finding that support. This approach showed “...how the actions (or lack of action) of agencies and institutions serve to enhance inequities, rather than providing a context for healing and recovery.”

The report also found pockets of good practice that can guide the development of proper after-care systems. They give the example of Ngā Tini Whetū, as a prototype using a Whānau Ora commissioning model to support families and whānau, saying “Service provision and support through a trusted provider also enhances engagement with whānau, increasing the likelihood for success.”

The Committee recommended a system to identify and support surviving whānau. Support would be tailored and whānau-led to respond to what they need, when they need it.

"In the Committee’s view, moving further towards an ideal solution requires these core components of an after-care system:

• a trigger system that helps to identify surviving family or whānau members from a family violence homicide. A question to consider is how similar existing postvention support systems for sudden unexpected death in infancy could be extended to family violence homicides

• a professional ally with specialist skills and experience who acts as a ‘super-advocate’ for surviving whānau or family members

• a whole child/whole whānau approach mediated by the professional ally to recognise the impact of loss, the need to lean on someone, the need for expertise about resources within the system and the advantages of someone with power to procure necessary resources

• a tailored approach that is family- or whānau-led, responding to what they need." (p11 of report)

In launching the report, the Committee Chair Fiona Cram said “The current system isn’t designed with the wellbeing of surviving whānau in mind." She also said

“Each family and whānau situation will be unique and complex in different ways and could include conflict over care arrangements for surviving whānau members and long-term experience of trauma.

“Each of these situations requires specialist skills. Having a system set up to support them during this time will have a life-long impact.”

This report follows last year’s Seventh report | Pūrongo tuawhitu: A duty to care | Me manaaki te tangata (2022), which looked at how government agencies have shifted from the ‘caring pathway’ for people who have experienced violence. It described how a duty to care based on whakapapa, whanaungatanga and manaakitanga could support whānau and families to prevent violence, prevent the escalation of violence and facilitate healing.

Auditor-General report

The findings from the Family Violence Death Review Committee are consistent with the Auditor-General’s recent report on Whānau Ora and whānau-centred approaches released in February 2023, which found that public organisations more generally were not working in ways that supported whānau.

The report, How well public organisations are supporting Whānau Ora and whānau-centred approaches, highlighted the limited progress towards supporting Whānau Ora (the funding programme under Te Puni Kōkiri) and whānau-centred approaches, despite several reports finding that Whānau Ora is successful for many whānau. In the report overview, the Auditor-General wrote “Public organisations need clear expectations for how they should support Whānau Ora and other whānau-centred approaches.”

The Auditor-General made 7 Recommendations:

  1. For Te Puni Kōkiri to clarify their mandate in broadening whānau-centred approaches;
  2. For Te Puni Kōkiri to prioritise improving how it measures and reports the impacts and outcomes of whānau-centred approaches;
  3. For Te Puni Kōkiri to improve the accessibility of this information to public organisations, non-government organisations, and the public;
  4. For Te Puni Kōkiri to clarify expectations that public organisations support whānau-centred approaches;
  5. For the Social Wellbeing Board to better enable whānau-centred approaches in commissioning social services;
  6. For the Treasury and Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission to guide public organisations about joint working and funding arrangements that would support the use of whānau-centred approaches; and
  7. For Te Puni Kōkiri to clarify the ‘complementary effort’ that public organisations are expected to provide for Whānau Ora.

An earlier 2015 review of Whānau Ora by the Auditor General, Whānau Ora: the first four years, found similar results, with government agencies lacking understanding and support for Whānau Ora.

Findings from a 2018 independent review of Whānau Ora, Tipu Matoro ki te Ao were also similar. They found that despite Whānau Ora creating positive, sustainable change for whānau, government agencies still lacked understanding of and commitment to Whānau Ora. The 2018 review made several recommendations to apply whānau-centred approaches more widely throughout government.

Related news

The Health Quality & Safety Commission (HQSC) is seeking applications for the inaugural National Mortality Review Committee (NMRC). Applications close on 28 April 2023. The NMRC is being established as part of changes to the national mortality review function. These changes include establishing a single national mortality review committee supported by subject matter expert groups. The NMRC will operate as the primary advisor on mortality review to the HQSC, reviewing and reporting on specified classes of death, with the aim of reducing preventable deaths. The NMRC will be stood up from 1 July 2023. The call for applicants states:

"We are seeking applicants who will bring a relational approach to interacting and communicating with others. Strategic system-wide thinking, the ability to understand the practical application of Te Tiriti in mortality review, and an understanding of the causes and consequences of inequities across society will be essential for this role. Lived experience will also be a key element of the Committee’s overall make up."

For more information see the HQSC call for applications. For more information about the changes see our news story Changes to national mortality review committees, including FVDRC and the NMRC terms of reference.

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