Parliament has given a third reading to the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Advocacy, Workforce, and Age Settings) Amendment Bill.
The Bill will come into force on 1 April 2017. It extends the age of state care and protection to a young person’s 18th birthday, but changing the definition of "young person" in section 2 of the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989.
The new legislation also replaces section 11 of the 1989 Act to ensure that the views of children and young people are taken into account as part of decision making at an individual level and in the development of services and policy.
Further changes to the principal Act through insertion of new sections 7A to 7E enable a broder range of professionals with specialist skills to perform some functions under the Act. Social workers will continue to be the main professionals responsible for carrying out these functions.
The new legislation also provides for the establishment of an independent youth advocacy service through insertion of a new requirement for the Chief Executive.
A statement from Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says the new law is the first part of a package of state care reforms.
Ms Tolley says a new operating model, under the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki is being developed, to begin in April 2017, and unlike Child Youth and Family it will not simply focus on crisis management, but will ensure better long-term life outcomes for children and young people in care.
She says the independent advocacy service will help connect children and young people in care to build a positive care identity, advocate for them and influence the development of services to ensure their individual and collective rights are upheld.
"By its April 2017 launch, the service will operate through a provisional national centre in Auckland with a network of local partners and communities, and with regional hubs to be established across the country."
The Bill was introduced on 1 June 2016 and received its first reading on 16 June, being referred to the Social Services Committee. The committee received 22 submissions and released a report on 14 October 2016, with a majority recommendation that the bill proceed.
The Bill was passed by a party vote on its third reading by 75 votes to 45.