Paper on vulnerable children just a diversion, says Turei

By Derek Cheng

Paula Bennett at the launch in Auckland yesterday of the Government's proposals to help vulnerable children. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Paula Bennett at the launch in Auckland yesterday of the Government's proposals to help vulnerable children. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The Government's Green Paper for Vulnerable Children is nothing more than a "diversion" to deflect focus from policies that are increasingly hurting the poor, Greens co-leader Metiria Turei says.

Her scathing comments follow the release of the Government's paper to help vulnerable children, which includes proposals such as priority access to services for parents of vulnerable children, mandatory reporting of abuse for teachers and doctors, and greater information sharing across agencies.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is encouraging debate on these issues in the lead up to the February 28 deadline for submissions.

Opposition parties have given the paper a lukewarm reception, amid fears that some of the proposals could create new gaps and lead to false allegations of child abuse.

Mrs Turei said it was good to have a national conversation about child abuse, but she attacked the Government's attempts to tackle poverty.

"[Paula Bennett] knows what the problems are and the solutions are sitting in front of her, and she is avoiding them by producing this paper instead.

"It's a diversion from the fact that National is making things worse for these families and children and have no genuine solutions.

"You do not need a green paper to sort out obvious problems of communication between Government agencies. It does not justify a nationwide discussion for a solution that's sitting right in front of her face." Mrs Turei said the real issues were inequality and poverty.

"If you want to support families to reduce the number of vulnerable children, then you have to deal not only with the consequences of policy, but the policy settings themselves."

Poor families were not seeing the benefits of economic growth, she said.

Labour deputy leader Annette King said the paper included much of Labour's policy on children, but was too narrow.

"Vulnerable children are part of the picture, but all children need a good start in life."

She said mandatory reporting could lead to vexatious claims, such as neighbours dobbing in each other simply because they don't like each other.

"I'd also have grave concerns about the ability of CYF to handle a huge influx of what could be seen to be child abuse but may not be."

National shame

* CYF confirmed 21,000 cases of abuse and neglect in 2009/10.
* More than 30,000 students truant from schools on any given day.
* 13,315 avoidable hospital admissions in 2008/09 were for children under five.
* 47,374 children (aged 0-16) lived with a victim of family violence reported to police in 2010.
* At any one time 15 per cent of children (or 163,000 under 18s) need support and intervention.

- NZ Herald

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