Education Ministry slashes 565 roles, expect another 400 at Oranga Tamariki

Between the Education Ministry and Oranga Tamariki, a thousand heads will roll (RNZ Photo)

Jemima Huston
Wellington, April 17, 2024

About 90% of Oranga Tamariki staff are likely to be cut completely, and 565 Ministry of Education jobs are on the chopping block.

Oranga Tamariki confirmed on Wednesday (April 17, 2024) that 447 jobs will be cut, reducing its workforce by 9%. A few hours later, it was announced a total of 565 jobs at the Ministry of Education (MOE) would also be cut, including 225 that RNZ understands are currently vacant.

Oranga Tamariki said that 632 roles would be disestablished including 70 vacant roles, and 185 new roles would be created. About 1900 roles would be affected overall either changed or disestablished in the “scope of restructuring work” out of 5100 permanent and fixed term staff – 37% of its staff.

‘Horrific’ impact on staff

An Oranga Tamariki staff member described Wednesday’s meeting on the proposal as gut wrenching. She said that all business units within the Ministry appeared to be affected, with some facing cuts of up to 50%

“Everything from HR to system leadership to policy to the evidence centre. Everything is been impacted really in one way or another,” she said.

The worker said that her job was set to be disestablished and she would have to apply for a reduced number of roles. She said leaders at Oranga Tamariki reiterated that the cuts were not a reflection of work ethic.

“It is just purely numbers, which is such a terrible way to look at it because I work alongside some of the most dedicated, hard hard working, passionate people I have ever met. And seeing the impact that will have on some of them is horrific.”

She said that it was short sighted for the agency to say the changes would improve things for tamariki and rangatahi.

“When they are slashing jobs of people who work tirelessly to improve outcomes for them, It is hard to see how this will have a positive impact on any of the work that we do.”

The worker said all staff were feeling shocked and uneasy but managers had been supportive.

Roles affected

Likely to be significantly impacted is the evidence centre which produces research evaluation, analytics and insights about tamariki, rangatahi, their whānau and the work of Oranga Tamariki.

Of the 632 roles slated to be disestablished, 24% are broadly manager roles and a third (34%) are advisory roles, slides as part of the job loss announcement show. About 29& are from “enabling services functions.”

Oranga Tamariki’s leadership would be disestablished and consolidated going from eight roles to six, and advice and management support for the chief executive is being downsized.

The office of the Chief Social Worker is being merged with the professional practice group, where 92 roles are proposed to be disestablished and 44 new ones created.

There would be a 19% reduction in total number of roles in those teams “from current to future state.”

The Ministry is also disestablishing the Treaty Response Unit and shifting current responsibilities to other areas. The aim is to create clear lines of accountability, simplify the structure and enable faster decision making and empower frontline staff to work together more effectively, according to the Ministry.

In a statement, Oranga Tamariki Chief Executive Chappie Te Kani said frontline staff were not part of these changes.

“This change goes to our core as a Ministry. It fundamentally moves us away from where we are, towards the kind of Ministry we need to be.”

For the 632 people who may be affected, he said this proposal would be a “hard read.”

“The change also delivers on the savings targets set by the government. At this stage, these are proposed changes, once consultation with staff is completed, final decisions will be made,” he said.

Ministry of Education cuts

With more than 500 jobs to go at the MOE, it makes the proposal the biggest single slash to a public service agency so far.

A total of 565 positions were set to be axed including nearly 100 regional and frontline roles directly supporting schools.

The Public Service Association said it was a brutal and dark day for public servants and the children and young people they supported. Assistant secretary Fleur Fitzsimons said the proposal included scrapping 87 jobs in the regions.

“People doing work including supporting children with disabilities, migrant and refugee children, advising schools on accessing speech and language therapy, lifting student achievement and helping ensure schools run smoothly.”

There was also a net reduction of 38 roles supporting students with disabilities and learning support needs.

Fitzsimons said the government promised job cuts would not impact frontline services but “these proposals show that is not true.”

She said that the Curriculum Centre, which provided expertise and resources to teachers on the curriculum, would see 202 staff cut from its team.

“While the government has delayed changes to NCEA levels two and three for two years, it’s clear that these roles will be needed again from 2026, so it’s woefully short sighted to be shedding all the experience and expertise now.

At a time when student achievement is falling and school attendance is a challenge, where is the education plan? It does not add up.”

A Complex Process

In response to the PSA, the MOE said the union had “mischaracterised” the Agency’s proposals as impacting services for children.

Secretary for Education Iona Holsted said that the proposal had been designed to avoid affecting tamariki.

“To be clear, this is a complex process that has required time, and our proposed changes have been designed to avoid impacts on direct services to children, teachers, and principals/leaders. The government has been clear that operational decisions on meeting the required savings targets are the responsibility of each agency.

As with all change, the Ministry is following a formal change process. Final decisions will not be made until after this process is concluded.”

The Ministry declined an interview with RNZ and did not answer questions about cuts to specific teams and the effect that would have on learners.

The Ka Ako, Ka Ora/Healthy School Lunches Programme was facing slashes to its staff.

Eight nutrition experts and at least six advisors, including the Te Aō Māori advisor and food safety advisor, would be axed.

Associate Education Minister David Seymour has previously confirmed the programme itself was under review and was likely to be cut in the Budget.

In a statement, Minister of Education Erica Stanford said savings made by the job cuts would be put into frontline services.

“This direction has already been signalled with our period products in schools programme announcement and continuing to fund a school lunches programme.”

The Minister acknowledged it was a difficult time for Ministry workers and their families and encouraged all staff to take part in the consultation process.

The cuts would not impact the frontline or children, Ms Stanford said.

“The Secretary of Education has been directed to ensure that services that support the education frontline or children will not be impacted by the change proposals.”

Cut down the Waste: PM

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said there would be more investment into both Oranga Tamariki and the MOE in the Budget at the end of May, but the cuts were expected.

“Those are decisions ultimately for the CEOs of those agencies. New Zealanders expect us to make sure that we cut down the waste, we end the wasteful spending, and we prioritise our frontline services, our public services.

“I appreciate some of those roles are vacancies and others will be real job losses  that will be a tough time for those individuals who have been impacted; you can be confident as we go through the Budget, there will be an increase in support and resources and funding for Oranga Tamariki and education,” he said.

Mr Luxon repeated his previous comments that the government wanted “more medical doctors, not spin doctors,” but said that was not a reference to the question he had been asked about the jobs in disability and migrant services.

“I am being very clear with the New Zealand people. And they expect this, there has been a massive amount of bureaucracy that is built up in our system, there has been a huge amount of wasteful spending,” he said.

On Oranga Tamariki, Mr Luxon said, “We have to look after our most vulnerable children. It has been a challenged organisation but making sure those resources are deployed and forward deployed into better caring for those children.”

More than 2000 jobs have been cut from public service so far as ministries try to achieve budget savings of up to 7.5%.

Minister for Regulation David Seymour previously indicated that the figure could hit 7500.

Jemima Huston is a Reporter at Radio New Zealand. The above Report and pictures have been published under a special agreement with

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