Abuse Hope on horizon

By Ross Pringle


It will not surprise many to learn poverty and lack of support are seen as the main drivers behind our appalling child abuse record.

This from a man on the frontline, who estimates that 10 per cent of the children treated at Wanganui Hospital's emergency department each year have suffered some form of abuse or neglect. All tallied, that makes 500 kids hurt, beaten or otherwise mistreated, more than one a day on average.

It's a shocking statistic and it is no wonder paediatrician David Montgomery admits the cases weigh on his mind. It cannot be easy being confronted with the absolute worst aspect of society on a daily basis.

Add to that the sad fact Child Youth and Family recorded 4127 child abuse notifications in Wanganui in the past financial year. More than 1500 required further action and 538 were cases of substantiated abuse. It's grim stuff and makes you wonder what exactly is going on behind closed doors in our suburbs.

So what do we do to turn this tide of abuse? Despite several high-profile cases that have horrified the local community and drawn national attention, how much is really being done to attack the causes?

The release last year of the government white paper was welcomed and it will be interesting to see what concrete steps are taken as a result.

In Wanganui, welfare organisations already collaborate well, according to Jigsaw executive officer Tim Metcalfe, who has hopes the white paper would enhance the good work being done. He points out, though, that making a real difference in families requires high-quality intensive work, and this in an environment where resources are stretched.

A bright spot on the horizon might be the appointment of a child protection co-ordinator by the district health board. It is to be hoped the board can find the resources to accommodate this role. The child protection co-ordinator could play a pivotal role in identifying the extent of the problem and any common factors.

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- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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