Anti-child abuse plan a 'lost opportunity'
Thu, 11 Oct 2012 5:22a.m.
By Lloyd Burr and Dan Satherley, with additional reporting from NZN
The Government has unveiled its blueprint for tackling child abuse which includes a multi-agency database that automatically notifies when a child may be at risk.
Seven Government agencies will be responsible for the care and protection of children and will jointly be accountable for reducing New Zealand’s high child abuse record.
Currently, between seven and 10 children are killed every year by the person charged with their care and in 2010, more than 200 kids were hospitalised after being assaulted.
In the last year, there were 4,766 cases of neglect, 3,249 cases of physical abuse, 1,396 cases of sexual abuse and 12,114 cases of emotional abuse.
The Government’s White Paper for Vulnerable Children plans to dramatically change these figures with an early detection and prevention system.
Those on the frontline working for professional and community agencies will enter information into a ‘Vulnerable Kids Information System’.
The information entered into the system can include a child’s exposure to family violence, change of address or simply engagement with a Government service provider.
High-risk adults with a history of abusing or neglecting children will also be traced and monitored and the system will raise the alarm if a single mother moves in with them.
School principals can also enter information if they have concerns about a child.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the proposed measures will fundamentally change the status quo.
“We must have the courage of our convictions and take these bold steps. What we’re doing now clearly isn’t working well enough,” she says.
The Government will not be legislating for mandatory reporting of child abuse because of concerns about child protection agencies getting involved in the lives of innocent families.
Instead agencies that work with children and frontline staff at all Government agencies must know how to recognise and report suspected abuse.
“This White Paper is bigger than politics," says Ms Bennett. "It is bigger than any one individual. It is not only for this generation of New Zealand children, but also for their children and their grandchildren."
Ms Bennett's Green Paper for Vulnerable Children, released last year, received almost 10,000 submissions, more than 2000 of them from children.
The plan includes:
The Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the police and Te Puni Kokiri will all be part of the plan.
The multi-agency system is planned to be up and running by the end of 2014.
WHITE PAPER 'IGNORES' CAUSE OF ABUSE
“The White Paper on vulnerable children and the Children’s Action Plan, released this morning, failed to address the single most dangerous thing in a child’s life – poverty,” says Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei.
“It beggars belief that the Government could write a plan to help vulnerable children without addressing the one thing that makes them more vulnerable than anything else.
Ms Turei says the Government is "allergic" to helping those in need, and has parked an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff instead.
“Nothing in this paper relieves stresses on families that can’t afford decent food or warm dry homes for their kids.
“While the Green Party supports parts of the action plan, including moves to make more Government agencies responsible for at risk children and for better information sharing, we are disappointed by what is not in the plan.
“Children need their parents to earn a living wage, and if their parents can’t work they need benefits adequate enough to afford healthy food."
She calls the phone line a "dob-in line", and says Plunket's suggestion of a national child health database was ignored.
“This narrow approach to what it means to be vulnerable is a lost opportunity to prevent child abuse at its source and is a tragic disappointment for children and everyone working with them," says Ms Turei.
Labour is also calling the White Paper a "lost opportunity", though admits it has some good ideas.
“The plan includes some common sense ideas on identifying abuse, including training frontline staff and improving information sharing," says social development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern.
"But these initiatives will only succeed if they’re properly resourced. As a nation we spend more on pet food than we do on child protection."
Ms Ardern says without tackling poverty, the scheme won't work.
“The longer we ignore child poverty, as the minister has done, the more it will cost us. We spend roughly $6 billion a year picking up the pieces when children do not get a good start in life."
POSITIVE REACTION, WITH A FEW CONCERNS
Leaders from children's organisations said the White Paper is a step in the right direction.
Jigsaw's national project manager Sally Christie says the information-sharing database and phone line will make a real difference.
"In every case (that) a child's horrendously hurt or dies, there's always people that have concerns and know things, and it's not joined up, so to us, that's a really important start.
"The detail of how we do that is still to be implemented but as a basis I think that's really, really important."
Ms Christie says the government will face a challenge to resource the White Paper objectives without taking away resources from other services or making more children vulnerable.
Every Child Counts manager Deborah Morris-Travers says the White Paper has definite strengths, but she is concerned about its narrow focus.
"If you target too hard, there will be children who are vulnerable but who sit just outside the threshold or the criteria, and if we don't have a universal approach, we miss the opportunity to prevent those children from being abused or becoming more vulnerable."
She also wanted to see the White Paper address issues like child poverty, mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse, which can make a child more vulnerable.
3 News / NZN
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14/10/2012 8:52:27 p.m.
11 Agencies were involved in the welfare of a little girl. If 11 Agencies cannot prevent the systematic torture and abuse of even one child, how do you expect us to believe that throwing more bureaucracy at the problem is going to work. It is frightening how incompetent and ineffective your department really is. Hekia must breathe a sigh of relief every time you release a policy statement.
12/10/2012 8:05:48 p.m.
Lost opportunity, says Labour. What did they do to address the problem?
11/10/2012 5:55:53 p.m.
iron side wrote:
Introducing minimum standards of competency for different jobs that involve working with kids;
This is what the White Paper and MSD should be exclusively working on.
It has been found time again that lack of support for childrens needs is what creates a negative spiral for children and families.
It is also found that NZ has a lack of child focused policy and funding. The MSD should be campaigning about the incompetent services for improvement
11/10/2012 5:49:28 p.m.
Floral paisley wrote:
The facts clearly state that a lack of child focused funding and policy is creating a situation in NZ that is contrary to positive child development. That government and NGO services for disabled and other needs children are failing them. Ms Bennett and co will have to come up with a solution to cover their tracks than remove all children from parents who question the dangerous dichotomy that pervades their childrens lives
11/10/2012 2:40:06 p.m.
were the hack is the leader of the labor party ? this is hopeless they should be making massive hay but nstead their leader is hold up in his office hiding . time to dump David shearer and put David cunliffe in charge hes not worried about key and he is full of fight tenacious fight .hell the current leader is worse than bill Rowling and that's saying something . this government is so bad the labour party should be 20% ahead in the polls with all the ammunition key provides them with with his corruption .if David shearer cared about the great NZ labour party he would step aside .
11/10/2012 1:36:53 p.m.
the problem is welfare wrote:
sadly I think that years of handouts have led to an ungrateful society that cant look after its real poor because people will go out of their way to get what they can out of government and as for which government is worse they are all as bad as each other Labour was in for nine years leading up to and causing half these problems. Australian and other countries have much less social welfare and handouts and loads of homeless people so why are we having mostly children only in poverty?? no-one even mentions the parents here why not isnt it PC to ask these parents to come forward and say why their children are starving
11/10/2012 1:11:40 p.m.
Gary your comment is ridiculous. How can you compare the Government to the Nazi party? That is both ridiculous and highly offensive. Grow up and make intelligent comments.
11/10/2012 11:17:18 a.m.
gWendoline Cooney wrote:
I agree with the commments from the green party. I also know that regardless of what the blueprint for reducing child abuse suggests it wont work in reality.I am a worker in an NGO and I also have contact with CYFs. There are definitely not enough resources in place to deal with extent of the work required to sustain the "ideas" devised by Paula Bennet.NGO's and community agencies are dealing with massive funding cuts from the government, the family courts are in disarray after closing of local courts and amalgamations after a so called"drop in crime". Which only the ignorant would belive. It's all game of moving mumbers around and hiding othere numbers. CYFS can barely deal with the case loads they have ,NGO's and Government agencies are totally overwhelmed. Get Real Paula!!!
11/10/2012 11:13:42 a.m.
They take us all for fools. Think they can stand on their soap box give us the same old bla bla bla and we all stand and cheer running to the ballot box ready to vote in this Nazi governemnt to give us more trouble and lies. Paula will not be happy until she see's homeless people pushing shopping carts down the street. We are becomimg a carbon copy of the US without the wealth. NZ must stand up and get rid of these dictators they are destroying NZ and now we can all see them for what they really are. Boo, jeer throw rotten tomatoes what ever it takes this Nazi governemnt MUST go.
11/10/2012 11:13:41 a.m.
Today, we expect Government policies & laws to restrain violent & abusive behaviour. Policemen laws & Government policies can never replace customs, traditions and moral values as a means for regulating human behavior. “At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. Our increased reliance on laws to regulate behavior is a measure of how uncivilized we’ve become.” (D. Todd Christofferson, 2009). Another Government initaitive has done nothing but produce yet another set of ambulances at the bottom of a very rugged cliff. Strengthening families from within is the only sure to prevent child abuse, the family is the key to a civilized and safe society, getting back to family basics is the only sure way to rise up the next generation with a firm foundation of mental spiritual physical and cultural beliefs to stand and succeed.
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