Fewer child abuse cases in region

By Cassandra Mason

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Too many people have failed to voice suspicions of child abuse.
Too many people have failed to voice suspicions of child abuse.

More than 670 children were victims of child abuse in Hawke's Bay in the past year, but the rate is dropping.

Child Youth and Family received 7973 abuse notifications in Hawke's Bay in the financial year to June 30, 2513 of which required further action.

Of these, 676 were found to be substantiated abuse cases - down from 750 the previous year.

While the number of substantiated cases had dropped from previous years, the number of notifications to CYF had risen.

The figures also reveal that 86 local children were in out-of-home care and protection placements in Napier on June 30 compared with 68 at the same time in 2012.

Sixty-five children were care placements in Hastings, compared with 48 the previous year.

Meanwhile, 131 cases of substantiated abuse were identified in Hawke's Bay in the three months to September 30 this year.

Detective Senior Sergeant David Greig from the Eastern district child protection team said the Hawke's Bay team worked closely with CYF on reports of child abuse.

"Hawke's Bay police are constantly monitoring and reviewing their response to reported child abuse and work proactively to improve levels of service," he said.

"One example of this is the establishment in 2012 of a stand-alone facility equipped with specialised child-friendly interview rooms."

National criminal investigations manager Detective Superintendent Rod Drew said child abuse was well-documented in New Zealand and "an absolute priority" for police.

"Child abuse happens across all aspects of society and ethnic groups, therefore all adults need to be responsible and speak up to protect children in their families and communities."

Every police district had specialist child protection staff dedicated to investigating and preventing child abuse and were usually working on a number of cases at any given time, Mr Drew said.

Abuse continued to involve family members, partners and happened in community and social settings. But awareness was improving and fewer people were turning a blind eye.

"Often the question is asked by those reporting 'What if I am wrong?' But what should be asked is 'What if I am right'."

"It is everyone's responsibility to report child abuse, too many people have failed to speak up when they are aware of or suspect abuse is happening and children have subsequently died."

Children's Commissioner and Hawke's Bay paediatrician Russell Wills said Hasting's drop in substantiated abuse cases - from 453 to 369 year on year - was "very encouraging".

"I have to say I'm encouraged ... a 10 per cent fall in Napier and nearly 20 per cent in Hastings."

The figures were consistent with local DHB data which showed a drop in admissions to hospital for non-accidental injuries.

"Encouraging and supporting and training staff to ask the tough questions of parents to continue to work very closely together.

"We've got one of the poorest populations of children of the 20 DHBs. About half of our babies are born into the poorest two income deciles so we expect a higher rate of inflicted injury."

However, collaboration among the DHB, CYF, Women's Refuge and local police had helped slow the rates down.

Mr Wills said the link between poverty and child abuse was "clear".

Nationally, admissions to hospital with inflicted injuries were 10 times more common for the poorest 10 per cent of children compared with the wealthiest 10 per cent.

But the pattern over the past five years showed increasing "societal intolerance" for violence towards women and children.

"We have cases brought to attention earlier in the life of the child, earlier in the life of the violence and that's helping us to intervene earlier."

He credited the changes to developments like the "It's not OK" campaign, anti-smacking legislation and an increase in parents referring themselves for parenting programmes.

"In the end, what's going to make the biggest difference is changing attitudes." APNZ

- Hawkes Bay Today

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