Inaction on poverty deplored

By Mike Dinsdale

The failure of the Government's Vulnerable Children White Paper to address child poverty is "child neglect at a State level", a Whangarei child poverty worker says.

Liz Cassidy-Nelson, from the Whangarei Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), said the White Paper, released last week by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, was a good start in addressing child protection but failed to address the important issue of poverty.

But Ms Bennett said poverty wasn't an excuse for child abuse, and it was "too simplistic" to blame poverty for New Zealand's child-abuse rates. There were a 100 different factors for child abuse, of which poverty was one.

Ms Cassidy-Nelson said the 30 recommendations in the White Paper would go a long way to ensuring the safety of children from abuse and neglect. However, poverty was a huge issue in Northland.

"We are most disappointed the White Paper doesn't take action on child poverty. The White Paper needs to address the poverty experienced by thousands of children."

To continue to ignore child poverty was unacceptable, she said. It was "neglect at a State level" and did little to effect change for future generations.

In Northland, most babies were being born into poverty.

"In 2010, 63.5 per cent of our babies were born into the three most-deprived deciles. We cannot continue to let this happen. Poverty is harming children now and the damage done is life-long."

Ms Cassidy-Nelson said the White Paper was a missed opportunity to meet the needs of thousands of New Zealand's most vulnerable children.

Features of the White Paper include:

A database of 30,000 vulnerable children and families, which would be available to teachers, social workers and health workers.

Child abusers would be issued with orders preventing them from accessing children and alerts would go across agencies if potential abusers moved into a home with a child.

Local "children's teams" would be set up that could award contracts for services targeting children and extra training would be available for people working with children to assist in identifying vulnerable children.

Legislation would formalise screening of people who worked with children and a register of pre-approved iwi caregivers who could take in children of the same tribe removed from their homes would be set up.

- Northern Advocate

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