Violent child waits for help

Whangarei principals are struggling with violent pupils as young as 6 years of age and say Government resources aren't doing enough.

A pupil at Hora Hora Primary School has lashed out repeatedly at classmates and has been referred him to the Gateway programme, which co-ordinates the services of Child Youth and Family, doctors and schools, but will have to wait another two months for help.

The programme provides an assessment of a child and assigns the correct specialised care to children who are in need.

The pupil in question has been approved for further assistance, which Hora Hora principal Pat Newman assumes is psychiatric help.

However, the services won't be made available until July, four months after the initial referral.

Mr Newman said the interim support of a few hours with a social worker was not enough: "Gateway would be the preferred method if it was properly funded."

Students who were picked up and analysed by Gateway were "already appearing on the books" of a number of social agencies, such as Child Youth and Family, he said.

"Generally, things like absences, poor clothing, disruptive behaviour, these are all signs, and we know something's not right."

Mr Newman said the programme involved a lot of paper work and not much action.

"It's another case of 'lets have meetings, let's write endless observational notes', but nothing actually happens."

David Hain, principal of Totara Grove School, said he was aware of children being assessed by the Gateway programme, but not at his referral.

The interim response is not going to overcome the problem.David Hain, principalViolent child must wait for help

"I believe it is a fairly comprehensive way of identifying a child's needs," he said.

Some pupils' behavioural problems were at a point where outside agencies needed to step in to provide support.

"We get great support from Special Education, but it is not funded sufficiently.

"We need more one-on-one support," Mr Hain said.

"The interim response is not going to overcome the problem."

The programme has been running in the Northland region since July 2012, and a total of 118 referrals have been made by the Northland District Health Board so far. Paula Attrill, general manager Care and Protection Support, Child Youth and Family, said there was no shortage of funding for Gateway.

"The implementation of Gateway Assessments in Northland is making steady, incremental progress and we are satisfied with the progress it is making," Ms Attrill said.

At the moment, 14 children had a Gateway assessment booked for them and were waiting for it to take place.

Another 16 youngsters were waiting to have such an appointment booked.

Ms Attrill said that agencies in Northland had worked hard to get the Gateway assessment service in place.

She noted there was a "high degree of enthusiasm for making it work well for children and families".


- Northern Advocate

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