Bay child abuse reports skyrocket

By Amy McGillivray

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Tauranga Child, Youth and Family received more than 5500 reports about the welfare of children last year an increase of 141.6 per cent over the past five years.

Figures show 5540 reports of concern were made in the 2011-12 financial year.

In total, 2193 required further action and 831 were recorded as substantiated abuse.

CYF Bay of Plenty operations manager Tayelva Petley told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend the figures reflected a greater willingness in the community to report concerns about a child's welfare rather than a rise in abuse.

Ms Petley said the agency had worked closely with police to encourage people to report suspected child abuse.

"Communities are more educated. Schools and health agencies are more in tune with indicators of abuse. In Tauranga, the community has really, really stepped up."

The huge increase in the number of notifications requiring further investigation and cases of substantiated abuse in the 2010-11 financial year was probably a result of the inclusion of emotional abuse in the figures.

Youth Horizons Trust works chief executive Cath Handley agreed the increase came down to better public awareness.

"More people understand the opportunities and obligations about reporting," she said.

"Systems have just got a lot better across the country. We have got historically high levels and we are now addressing those with a degree of certainty of what's going on in society."

The organisation works alongside CYF in Tauranga in dealing with children and young people with the most serious level of antisocial behaviour.

Open Home Foundation Bethlehem practice manager Rose Robbins said community awareness around child abuse had improved, but there also seemed to be more abuse happening.

"I think some of that would be correct that there is less of a stigma about community members making reports of concern to CYF.

"I also feel that the numbers rising is due to a lot of other factors such as unemployment. A lot of the families we work with are under the poverty line.

"They are not seeing a way forward and they are resorting back to their drug and alcohol addictions," she said.

"I think it's a sign of the times. I think it's more difficult to get work. A lot of young people are feeling that there's really no future. They are just struggling to provide a safe, loving environment for their children."

The Open Home Foundation works with parents and children to help prevent young people ending up in CYF care.

Figures for the first six months of the 2012-13 financial year suggest the figures will be on the rise again.

Between July and December last year, there were 3023 reports of concern, 1212 notifications that required further action and 405 cases of substantiated abuse.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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