90 child abuse alerts a week

Child, Youth and Family was alerted to nearly 4700 suspected child abuse cases - about 90 a week on average - in Rotorua during the past financial year.

Of these cases, 1169 required further action by officials and 529 cases were found to be substantiated abuse.

However, a group trying to prevent violence in the local community says greater awareness around child abuse has led to more action to tackle the problem.

Rotorua family violence prevention organisation Te Waiariki Purea Trust works in the community to try to stimulate positive changes.

Team leader Paraone Pirika said the nation's horrific child abuse record was highlighted by the 2007 Nia Glassie case.

The 3-year-old died from head injuries after being subjected to months of abuse by her family.

Child abuse was most common in areas with high unemployment, Mr Pirika said. Many Maori were unemployed in the areas the trust worked.

"So, we're making the links to that high unemployment, to the violence in the home and then from the violence in the home to the next step, which is abusing our children."

Stamping out child abuse would take some time as it was an inter-generational issue, but the Government's White Paper on Vulnerable Children was a step in the right direction, Mr Pirika said.

Community programmes in partnership with the council were creating activities at local parks in the suburbs and leadership courses to encourage youth to take a more positive path with their lives.

More than 150,000 child abuse notifications were made to CYF nationally in the past financial year, uncovering 61,074 cases that required further action and 21,525 cases of substantiated abuse.

CYF general operations manager Marama Edwards said the organisation received thousands of calls from people worried about children or families every year.

"Police are our primary referrers, followed by health and education professionals, social service providers, family members and friends, and members of the public."

Police notified CYF every time they attended a family violence incident and found a child present, she said.

"This practice, along with an increased public awareness and willingness to speak up for children, is a significant driver in the increase in notifications occurring each year over recent times," Ms Edwards said.

The highest number of notifications that required further action were recorded in Whangarei, Manurewa, Tauranga, Waikato West and Wellington's Hutt Valley respectively.

Of the 21,525 substantiated abuse findings in the past financial year, 12,114 were emotional abuse cases, 3249 were physical abuse, 1396 were sexual abuse and 4766 were cases of neglect.

One of the key initiatives of the Government's White Paper, released last month, was establishing a database of about 30,000 "at-risk" children.

The database will assess the chances of a child being abused and act as an early alert system.

It was one of about 30 changes the Government has committed to after a lengthy review of the law and processes relating to vulnerable children following a series of horrific cases of abuse.

The proposals stop short of introducing mandatory reporting by health workers and teachers - but do impose legislative requirements for government agencies when dealing with suspected abuse.

Also introduced were measures to keep potential abusers away from children and the ability to strip parents of guardianship rights.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said at the time some people might consider the changes intrusive, but they could have helped prevent deaths, such as that of Nia Glassie, whose violent end was a catalyst for the White Paper.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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