Child abuse tally up, not down

By Kathryn Powley, Keith Ng

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Increasing numbers of children have been physically and emotionally abused in the past few years - starkly contradicting welfare officials' claims.

The Ministry of Social Development had wrongly reported to Minister Paula Bennett and Parliament the number of children confirmed as having been emotionally abused had dropped from 11,290 in 2010, to 10,817 in 2013. In fact, the number has risen to 11,386. Over three years, bureaucrats had failed to count 944 emotionally abused children. Similarly, the numbers of physically abused children this year was under-counted.

Child, Youth and Family social workers are each meant to deal with 12 to 18 children but some are dealing with up to 40 at a time. The agency has acknowledged its social workers deal with far more abuse than they should have to, and has commissioned a review of their workload.

Association of Social Workers chief executive Lucy Sandford-Reed said the shonky statistics had the potential to worsen the excessive workload of CYF staff. "With too high a caseload, you're at risk of making mistakes."

The Herald on Sunday revealed last month Bennett's flagship White Paper on Vulnerable Children was compromised by the botched abuse data.

The Ministry of Social Development temporarily pulled abuse statistics off its website, but continued to insist, as recently as yesterday, that the overall trends in child abuse remained the same.

However, Herald on Sunday analysis of the corrected data shows the trend in emotional and physical abuse heading upwards - the opposite direction to the ministry's reports. And the number of children neglected by their caregivers has soared from 4059 to 4957 - 60 per cent higher than in official reports.

The problem occurred because a computer programme designed to take a snapshot of reported new cases took the count too soon each month and missed some data.

- Herald on Sunday

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