Whangarei on child abuse list

By Mike Dinsdale

A Vulnerable Children's Team in Whangarei would help arrest the region's shocking child-abuse rate and plan to intervene before serious abuse happened.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has announced that a second Vulnerable Children's Team will be rolled out in Whangarei before the end of 2013 to tackle child abuse.

The team, which is yet to be set up, will identify at-risk children and provide them and their families with the appropriate services. Ms Bennett said the team - which would be made up of education, health and social service professionals - would bring together frontline professionals working with children to protect vulnerable youngsters from abuse.

"The purpose of the team is to intervene before serious abuse occurs," she said. "They will bring together lead professionals and co-ordinate services to provide this early intervention. In cases of suspected abuse, Child Youth and Family (CYF) will continue to have statutory responsibility to respond."

Northland District Health Board acting chief executive Jeanette Wedding has welcomed the region becoming the second after Rotorua to get a Vulnerable Children's Team.

In the year to June 30, Northland had the highest number - 2408 - of notifications with CYF that required further action. In the last year there were 911 substantiated cases of child abuse in Whangarei out of 21,525 in New Zealand.

"We are really pleased Whangarei has secured a Vulnerable Children's Team," Ms Wedding said. "We have excellent working relationships across the Northland health and welfare sector and together we will be able to get more positive outcomes for children at risk. Intersectoral co-operation is not new in Whangarei and the Vulnerable Children's Team strengthens our alignment and opportunities to provide a more comprehensive service for vulnerable children and their families."

The team would make a real difference, Mrs Bennett said, and children who were at risk of abuse or neglect needed professionals to bring their expertise and work in a co-ordinated manner, putting the child at the centre of all decision-making.

"We chose Whangarei for the second team because, like Rotorua, the community both needs it and is ready for it," she said.

Work would start straight away to bring the team together, with a regional director appointed to ensure funding and services were available.

- Northern Advocate

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