Abused children the focus of paper

By Matthew Martin

Current laws make it too easy for family members who abuse children to hide behind name suppression, a Rotorua child advocate says.

Name suppression in cases of child abuse was just one of the topics covered yesterday in Rotorua at a meeting to discuss what can be done to curb New Zealand's terrible record when it comes to the abuse of children.

About 40 people crammed into Plunket House on Pukuatua St to discuss and make submissions to the Government's Green Paper on Vulnerable Children. It will result in an action plan and  legislation which aims to put children first in New Zealand.

Rotorua MP Todd McClay introduced his colleague, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, saying two children would be seriously abused or harmed in New Zealand within the hour they had to discuss the issue.

Ms Bennett is on a nationwide tour to stimulate debate and gather feedback on how to better care for children and young people.

Ms Bennett said she was the first to admit things needed to change.

"I am disappointed and horrified when any child is hurt ... are people willing to make sacrifices to bring about change to protect those vulnerable children?"

Ms Bennett said the Government received 160,000 abuse notifications last year, but she believed that was only about half the real figure.

Anne, from the Rotorua Sexual Abuse Centre, said sexual abuse of children often flew under the radar if the offender and the victim were members of the same family, as name suppression was almost always permanent.

"And what do we know about the offenders? We know who the victims are, but we are looking at the band-aid side of the issue."

Abuse was cross-cultural but those with more money were more likely to be able to hide behind the justice system, said Anne.

Lani  from Family Focus Rotorua said one of the problems she faced was a lack of information.

"The courts don't share much [information] with me, they just fill in their tick boxes. The more information I can get from [Child, Youth and Family] and the courts, the better," she said.

Sarah, a child protection co-ordinator for the Lakes District Health Board, said often people did not fully understand what child abuse was.

"If a woman smokes when pregnant knowing it's harmful, is that child abuse? What about children not being put in child restraints when in a car?"

Sarah said part of the problem was there was no proper definition of child abuse.

If you would like to make a submission to the Government's Green Paper on Vulnerable Children visit www.saysomething.co.nz. A full copy of the Green Paper can be found at www.childrensactionplan.govt.nz


Green paper issues:

  • When should government intervene with families?


  • What should government be responsible for?


  • How much and where should funding be found for this?


  • Should government monitor all children from birth?


  • Prioritising services for vulnerable children and their families

  • The mandatory reporting of child abuse


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