Late in 2021, a bill was presented to a select committee in the NZ Parliament called the 'Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People’s Commission Bill'.
The bill seeks to remove the role of Children’s Commissioner – a position which historically has the authority to report with or without invitation directly to the Prime Minister on behalf of children. Instead, a new Children and Young Person’s Commission is established, run by a Board of between three and six members.
FASD-CAN, along with many other children's rights groups in Aotearoa, believes passionately that the Children's Commissioner should be retained. On February 23, 2022, FASD-CAN board member Ross Henderson presented this view in person to the select committee; FASD-CAN had also previously presented a written submission.
The Children's Commissioner is a high profile role with a mandate to draw children’s issues of concern to the Prime Minister. The previous CC, Judge Andrew Becroft, was a strong advocate for FASD to be considered a disability, and drew this to the attention of Ministerial Officials and Government on several occasions. Most notably he and the Disability Commissioner Paula Tesoriero presented a report on the human rights violations of those with FASD to the Prime Minister, meeeting with her and other senior ministers on the need for FASD to be considered a disability to be able to access Disability Support Services.
Judge Becroft's office has also had an important role in monitoring the appropriate management of children with FASD in state care. Ross spoke on the importance of this independent and prominent voice in advocating for all vulnerable children, but from our point of view, particularly those with FASD. Our view is that the power of this voice would be lost if the role was replaced by a panel which would not have the same power or influence.
Read FASC-CAN's written submission here, and read about the Save the Children's submission here.