Jordan Bond is a reporter for NZME's Local Network.

Child abuse halves despite static reports

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Child, Youth and Family found 234 cases of child abuse in Whanganui last year - less than half 2014's total. Photo/123RF
Child, Youth and Family found 234 cases of child abuse in Whanganui last year - less than half 2014's total. Photo/123RF

The number of confirmed cases of child abuse in Whanganui has halved in the last two years, despite Child, Youth and Family receiving just as many reports of possible abuse or neglect.

Child, Youth and Family data showed 234 confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect in the June 2016 year, down from a five year peak of 485 in 2014.

It intervened in 665 cases, down from 1079 in 2014, despite being notified of almost exactly the same number of concerning cases - around 1860.

The figures included emotional, physical and sexual abuse, as well as cases of neglect.

Whanganui's Rise Stopping Violence Services' Kylie Logan said there has been "an incredible" amount of work done by local organisations to reduce family violence and support those seeking help, with positive results.

"I've been doing this work for 20 years, and Whanganui has one of the strongest networks around family violence that I've been involved in," Ms Logan said.

She said said family violence and child abuse was often a learned behaviour.

"The main [driver of abuse] we see... is having grown up in families where they've witnessed violence or been abused as children themselves."

Ms Logan said interlinked factors - drug and alcohol abuse, poverty and unemployment - were often interlinked but not causes of abuse, and were more likely to also be symptoms of trauma.

Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley recently announced "sweeping reforms" to combat the "horrific" rates of family violence and abuse in New Zealand.

"Young people exposed to family violence... are four times more likely to commit sexual violence against a partner... three times more likely to attempt suicide, and 57 per cent leave school without a qualification," Minister Adams said.

The Government said family violence figures were likely five times higher than reported.

Child, Youth and Family's chief social worker Paul Nixon said it was difficult to definitively say abuse had fallen, despite falling numbers of substantiated abuse recorded by the agency.

"I don't think we know yet... We have to watch the trends over time.

"Child, Youth and Family's focus is not on whether particular numbers go up or down; it is on whether we are making the right decisions when we get notifications."

Mr Nixon said the 17,000 fewer cases nationwide requiring CYFs action over the last four years - a 28 per cent decrease - were picked up by other agencies.

"That's exactly what's happening, and that was the strategy, to get more [external] agencies involved earlier in the lives of these children."

Nationally, CYFs found 16,394 cases of substantiated child abuse or neglect in the June 2016 year - 45 each day. Around 8500 cases were emotional abuse, 3600 cases of neglect, 3100 cases of physical abuse and 1200 cases of sexual abuse.

The total figure dropped each year since the 22,984 cases in 2013.

Amanda Meynell, national manager of a child abuse prevention charity Child Matters, said while there were many dedicated efforts to reduce abuse, it's difficult to draw strong conclusions from the data due to the unknown extent of unreported cases.

"While we're talking about the tip of the iceberg, actually that's 16,000 children who have suffered at the hands of people who are supposed to love and care for them," Ms Meynell said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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