Ministry of Education to lose 565 jobs, OT 450

Photo: RNZ
Photo: RNZ
Nine percent of Oranga Tamariki staff are likely to be cut completely, and 565 Ministry of Education jobs are on the chopping block.

Oranga Tamariki has confirmed on Wednesday 447 jobs will be cut, reducing its workforce by 9 percent.

A few hours later, it was announced a total of 565 jobs at the Ministry of Education would also be cut.

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 percent of its staff.

'Horrific' impact on staff

An Oranga Tamariki staff member described Wednesday's meeting on the job cuts proposal as gut-wrenching.

She said all business units within the ministry appeared to be affected, with some facing cuts of up to 50 percent.

"Everything from HR to system leadership to policy to the evidence centre. Everything's been impacted really in one way or another."

The worker said 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's 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've ever met. And seeing the impact that will have on some of them is horrific."

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

Photo: RNZ
Photo: RNZ
"When they're slashing jobs of people who work tirelessly to improve outcomes for them, it's hard to see how this will be 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 percent are broadly manager roles and a third (34 percent) are advisory roles, slides as part of the job loss announcement show.

About 29 percent 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 percent 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," he said.

"At this stage, these are proposed changes, once consultation with staff is completed, final decisions will be made."

Ministry of Education cuts

With more than 500 jobs to go at the Ministry of Education, 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 "black day" for public servants and the children and young people they support.

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 the curriculum centre, which provide expertise and resources to teachers on the curriculum, will 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, when school attendance is a challenge, where is the plan for education? It doesn't add up."

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.

"Oranga Tamariki and the Ministry of Education are vital agencies, yet they are being stripped of more than 1000 roles in proposals with no clear direction from the government as to what will happen to savings," Fitzsimons said. 

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

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

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