Tens of thousands of reports of concern about child abuse in Hawke's Bay have been made to Oranga Tamariki in the past five years, but less than 4 per cent are substantiated.
The grim statistics were released to Hawke's Bay Today under the Official Information Act for the years 2016 to 2021.
The data covers the period of July 1 to June 30, apart from the current financial year, for which data covers from July 1, 2020 to January 31, 2021.
Between 2016 and 2020 there were a total of 23,798 reports of concern of physical and sexual abuse in Napier and Hastings, of which a total of 784 cases (3.2 per cent) were substantiated.
Of those, there were 13,965 reports of concern (ROC) of physical and sexual abuse made in Hastings, with 522 substantiated (3.7 per cent), and 9833 reports of concern of physical and sexual abuse made in Napier, with 262 substantiated (2.66 per cent).
Julie Tangaere, Oranga Tamariki East Coast regional manager, services for children and families, said Napier and Hastings received more ROCs during the specified period, which in turn led to a slightly higher number of those ROCs being substantiated.
"However, the data shows the margin of difference between both sites' [Napier and Hastings] reports of concern being substantiated during this period is minimal, 1.04 per cent," Tangaere said.
"The number of ROCs we receive across Hawke's Bay are not a new occurrence.
"We know that we have a key part to play in a whole-community response to improve outcomes for Hawke's Bay tamariki and whānau.
"We continue to encourage anyone who has concerns about tamariki or whānau in their neighbourhood or community to contact us, we take reports of concern seriously. The wellbeing of tamariki is the responsibility of all New Zealanders."
Oranga Tamariki general manager of public, ministerial and executive services, Steve Groom, said physical abuse was defined as any act that may result in physical harm to a child or young person.
"This involves situations where a child has an injury or was at serious risk of injury," Groom said.
"Sexual abuse is defined as any action where a child or young person is used for a sexual purpose. Sexual abuse can be any act that involves forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening."
Anyone who is worried about a child or young person can make a ROC to Oranga Tamariki or the police. This happens usually when they believe a child or young person has been or is likely to be harmed, ill-treated, abused, neglected or deprived.
For all allegations of harm – ill-treatment, abuse, neglect or deprivation of tamariki in care, Oranga Tamariki must complete a child and family assessment or an investigation.
Groom said if, after completing an initial assessment, they did not consider it necessary to complete further assessment or investigation, the response was "no further action (NFA)".
"An assessment or investigation is not necessary if the information discloses no harm, abuse, neglect, safety or wellbeing needs for te tamaiti, if family/whānau are actively pursuing wellbeing for te tamaiti and are willing and able to respond," Groom said.
"If the information indicates other services are engaged and are meeting the safety and wellbeing needs of te tamaiti, if the initial assessment identifies no need for a core assessment, if the matters have already been reported and are being dealt with, if the referrer is able to make appropriate alternative referrals to services for te tamaiti and their family/whānau and if the Family Violence Inter Agency Response System (FVIARS) has assessed the information, the outcome is no further action by Oranga Tamariki."
Groom said Oranga Tamariki reported its type of abuse by substantiated findings.
"A substantiated finding of abuse is when Oranga Tamariki has undertaken an assessment or investigation and determined that some form of harm to a child or young persons has occurred," Groom said.
"Having a substantiated finding does not indicate seriousness of an incident."
The worst year for substantiated findings in Hastings was 2018, with 99 cases of physical abuse and 31 cases of sexual abuse.
In Napier the worst year for substantiated findings was 2019, with 45 cases of physical abuse and 16 cases of sexual abuse.
Of the substantiated cases between 2016 and 2020, Hastings had 409 cases of physical abuse, and 113 cases of sexual abuse. In Napier for the same period there were 205 cases of physical abuse and 57 cases of sexual abuse.
The majority of ROCs in both Napier and Hastings for 2016 to 2020 came from police (8962), Oranga Tamariki (2013) and hospital and public health nurses (2361).
Of the police referrals, 3182 (35.5 per cent) resulted in FAR (Further Action Required) investigations.