4 child abuse cases every day

By Mike Dinsdale

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Four children a day suffered abuse in Northland last year, but they were just the cases Child Youth and Family know about.

The problem is believed to be much bigger.

Figures from CYF show that in 2012, 1511 substantiated cases of child abuse were reported in Northland last year, or more than four a day on average.

The cases covered a range of child abuse from physical to sexual.

In Whangarei for the same period, 911 cases of child abuse were substantiated - almost two-and-a-half cases a day.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett was in Whangarei this week to meet the Whangarei Social Wellbeing Governance Group, the child action team which was set up to help vulnerable children in the district.

The team, only the second in the country, is made up of representatives from iwi, Northland District Health Board, Child Youth and Family (CYF), police and the Ministry of Eduction.

It will identify at-risk children and provide them and their families with the appropriate services. Ms Bennett said she was confident it would help address Whangarei's appalling abuse rates.

"Northland has a lot of vulnerable children. [The team] will get the right response to them in a more timely manner," Ms Bennett said.

"Having 911 cases in Whangarei (in one year) is far too high."

She said those were just the cases that came to CYF attention and there were likely many other children and families that needed help or intervention.

"If we get to them early, if we get to the situation where they don't get to CYF attention [because they have been given the help and support they need] it will be much better for them and their families."

Ms Bennett said there was now much better co-operation between police and CYF in responding to suspected child abuse.

The shocking child abuse figures for in Northland come ahead of two public marches in the region next Wednesday to show that people have had enough.

The "Enough is enough" anti-child abuse rallies will be held in Whangarei and Kaitaia on Wednesday.

Anahera Herbert-Graves, who has organised the Kaitaia rally, said she was shocked to hear the latest abuse figures, but not entirely surprised.

"I know people who work in that area and they are stressed out due to how busy they are," she said.

Ms Herbert-Graves said while government and other agencies were working hard on the problem it was important the public had its say and rallied to help find solutions.

"We can't just sit back and wait for somebody else to do something.

"We want to help come up with solutions and practical steps to help children and their families. Now is the time for action."

The Kaitaia hikoi, kicking off at 10am from the Mana Party office on North Rd, goes along Commerce St, into Redan Rd then on to the reserve behind the old Far North District Council offices where the rest of the day's programme will be held.

The date was chosen to coincide with the sentencing of former Pamapuria School deputy principal James Parker, who is being sentenced in the Kaitaia District Court for multiple charges of sexually abusing boys.

The Whangarei hikoi will start at the Whangarei Courthouse at 12pm, marching to Laurie Hall Park.

People who have concerns about possible child abuse can report them to CYF on 0508 326459.

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- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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