Frequently asked Questions

4 March 2019 

What does ‘in care’ mean?

Being in care means the State or a faith-based institution took responsibility for looking after a person. 

No matter how a person came to be in care (voluntarily, through a court process, or some other way) doesn’t matter – once a person is in care, they must be treated well and must not be abused or neglected.

Sometimes the State or faith-based institutions provided care themselves (directly).  In other cases, people or agencies did this work on their behalf (indirect care).  The Inquiry can look at both. Care involves looking after someone for a specific reason.  This includes welfare (to protect someone from harm), if they need particular help (for example for a disability or mental illness), and education (going to school).  

It doesn’t matter if people stayed overnight, if they agreed to be in care or not, or if they were in a large institution or being cared for somewhere else.  

Many faith-based institutions provide care in a similar way to the State, for example by running religious schools, welfare homes, and other places.  The Inquiry will look at abuse in these contexts as well.


What types of abuse are covered?  What types of care?


We will investigate physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse, plus neglect or poor care leading to serious harm. We will look at what people and institutions did and what they failed to do. We can look into abuse and neglect by State and faith-based institutions, Government departments, and by people including staff and visitors, as well as other people such as patients or residents.  

Vulnerable adults

All people who are in someone else’s care are, in a way, ‘vulnerable’, because someone else is in charge.  Some people may also have a disability, mental or physical illness, or they may need extra help or care for some other reason. 

State care

State care means the State took responsibility for a child, young person, or vulnerable adult.  This includes girls’ and boys’ homes, youth justice residences, foster care, psychiatric and disability care, and different types of schools.  People in police or court cells (for example, before going into other care) are covered. These are just the main examples.

In the care of faith-based institutions

Faith-based institutions such as churches also provide care, for example by running protection or welfare homes and religious schools.  The Inquiry will look into abuse and neglect in these contexts as well. 


Can I talk to you if I have already spoken to a listening service, made a complaint, or received redress or settlement through another process?

Yes.  The Inquiry will hear from anyone within scope, even if you have already participated in another process of any kind.  This includes the “CLAS” (Confidential Listening and Advice Service), the Confidential Forum for Former in-Patients of Psychiatric Hospitals, any of the Historic Claims Units, the Police, or any other process.


What is out of scope?  

This Inquiry cannot look at abuse and neglect that happened in a fully private context, for example abuse by parents of their own children at home. The Inquiry cannot generally look at abuse that happened in prisons, general hospitals, aged residential and in-home care, and immigration detention. The Inquiry can only look at these places if someone was in State or faith-based care at the time.

While we can’t look at prisons in general, we can look at the fact that people in care often went on to experience the prison system.  We can look at this from the person’s perspective and think about the impact this had on their family and whānau (the next generation).

For faith-based care, fully private settings are excluded. The word ‘private’ here does not mean where the abuse and neglect actually took place (for example, behind closed doors).  What is excluded is where the faith-based institution was not responsible for the care of the person. 

Even if your situation is not covered, we may still be able to hear from you.  If you are unsure about whether you are covered, please get in touch with us.

Some other limits on what we can do 

There are limits on what the Inquiry can do.  We cannot review individual court decisions, but we can look at how court decisions were made in general, whether the right information was available to courts and what laws and rules they had to follow at the time.

The Inquiry’s role is not to prosecute people, sue them, or discipline them (for example, remove them from duty).  But we can refer cases to other agencies - for example the Police.


How is this Inquiry different from previous processes?

Among other things, this Inquiry has legal powers to compel people and agencies (including the Government) to provide information, and to summons witnesses.  We will hold agencies to account in public hearings as well as private listening sessions, and we have broad terms of reference to recommend changes to ensure lessons are learned.


Why should I speak to this Inquiry?

Your voice is important to the Commission so it can tell the full story of what happened, and make recommendations to help protect others now and in the future.


What powers does the Royal Commission have?

The Royal Commission has powers to receive any evidence that may assist it; to require any person or body (including a Government agency) to produce documents or other information; and to summons witnesses to give evidence. 


Can I still make a complaint to other agencies?

People can still make a complaint or claim to the Government or others, including the Police, while the Inquiry does its work.  The Inquiry’s work does not mean that cases will be put on hold, or that new claims can’t be made.  We can, however, recommend changes to make complaints and claims processes better in the future.


I am older and/or unwell – can I speak to you urgently?

We will do everything we can to prioritise those who are aged/unwell and who want to share their stories.


Does it matter if I agreed to be in care or not?

No.  It doesn’t matter how a person came to be in care.  Some people were removed from their family and put in care; their family (or someone else) may have put them there, a court may have ordered it, or a person may have agreed to go into care.  This is because all people in care should be treated well, even if they reached there in different ways.


The people who were responsible for me were a business or charity.  Does that matter?

Not necessarily.  If they were providing care for the State, or for a faith-based institution (that is, doing the work on their behalf), then this is in scope. 

Some businesses and charities are excluded.  For example, sports clubs that had no connection to the State or a Faith-based institution are not in scope. 


Am I in scope if I was abused when I was:

a)      In a home for unmarried mothers  (either State or faith-based)

Yes.  While the Terms of Reference provide an example list of ‘social welfare’ settings that are in scope, it is not an exhaustive list. 

Homes for unmarried mothers, which were common in the past, are in scope.  Many people who went into these places were young, vulnerable, and suffered abuse. 


b)      In a religious school or orphanage (Christian or non-Christian)

Yes.  Religious schools are included in the Terms of Reference.  It does not matter if the school was a boarding school or day school – both are included.

Religious orphanages are a type of social welfare setting run by faith-based institutions and are in scope.

More broadly, the Terms of Reference do not limit the idea of ‘faith’ to one particular faith or religion.  If a faith-based institution was providing care to a child, young person, or vulnerable adult, this is in scope.  It is important to remember that our Terms of Reference require a care relationship.  Abuse and neglect by a fellow member of the congregation, for example, may not be in scope.  If you are unsure, talk to us. 


c)      In a mental health facility

Yes.  People in psychiatric or forensic (mental health) or disability facilities are included.  It doesn’t matter where in that facility a person was (for example, in a day ward or in a closed ward) or if they stayed overnight.  If they were abused there, they are in scope.

Some mental health and disability care is provided in the community (for example, supported living).  This is included. 

d)  As a altar boy or girl, or seminarian in a presbytery or other church setting
Yes. These situations are within the scope of the Royal Commission’s Inquiry.    
e) When I was a child at home or on a trip and was abused by a priest?
Yes. These situations are within the scope of the Royal Commission’s Inquiry.    


d)  As an altar boy or girl, or seminarian in a presbytery or other church setting

Yes. These situations are within the scope of the Royal Commission’s Inquiry.    


e) When I was a child at home or on a trip and was abused by a priest?

Yes. These situations are within the scope of the Royal Commission’s Inquiry.    


Why do you have contexts that are ‘in scope’ and ‘out of scope’ if you can hear from people anyway?

For many years, victims and survivors of State care abuse, as well as people who were abused in faith-based care settings, have called for an Inquiry.  Abuse and neglect anywhere is a serious issue and must be addressed properly.  For many years, those who called for this Inquiry have waited to share their story.  The Government was clear that it wanted to hear these experiences to learn the lessons and make sure it does not happen in the future.  We will need to ensure that we give the right time to people from this group, but in the full knowledge that others have experienced abuse, too. 

Where we can learn lessons from people whose experiences are out of the formal scope, we will reflect this in our report.  This is because we want to ensure that we are equipped to prevent and respond to abuse in the future for all children, young people and vulnerable adults. 


The person who abused me is very ill or has passed away.  Am I still able to share my experience?

Yes.  The Inquiry has been asked to look at abuse and neglect that happened in institutions.  This means that, in some cases, people may have passed away or may no longer live in New Zealand.  This will not prevent you from sharing your experience with us.  You will still be able to come forward.


Can the Inquiry hear about abuse of someone who has died?

Yes. We can hear from family members, friends, or anyone else with relevant information.


Can I bring a support person with me to a private session?



What if I live out of New Zealand?

Almost all of the Inquiry’s work will happen in New Zealand, but this won’t limit our ability to listen to people who are out of New Zealand. 


What is the role of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the inquiry?

Māori children and young people were disproportionately represented in institutional State care and are now a majority of those in care. It is essential therefore that all aspects of the Royal Commission’s work are underpinned by the Treaty of Waitangi, including our engagement with whānau, hapu and iwi, and urban-based organisations; the conduct of private and public hearings; and the direction of our research and policy.