NZ Herald 11 Oct 2012
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett Bennett has rejected criticism that the newly released White Paper on Vulnerable Children falls short because it does not address child poverty, saying “poverty is not an excuse to abuse children.”
Speaking after launching the White Paper at the Jigsaw Conference in Wellington this morning, Ms Bennett said many people lived in financial hardship who did not abuse their children.
“Poverty is not an excuse to abuse your children. This paper was always about the most complex and hardest to reach kids. They need us more than any other children in this country.”
Her comments were in response to comments by Labour’s social development spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern and Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei that poverty was the most significant factor in child abuse
The Vulnerable Kids Information System will be developed from a “risk predictor” which can assess a child’s chances of abuse before they are even born based on their home life and parental history.
It was developed by a team of ethicists, social workers and economists at Auckland University.
Associate Professor Rhema Vaithianathan said about 57,000 children were scored to see whether abuse before the age of 5 could be predicted. The results gave the researchers about 131 assessment variables, such as whether the parent was abused, the type of benefit, the partner’s background, and prison history.
The plan Database of 30,000 “at-risk” children Who sees it Teachers, social workers, doctors and health workers Criteria 130 risk factors, including whether they live with a known abuser Aim To act as an early alert system to prevent abuse
Groups have say on child abuse white paper
New measures to reduce New Zealand’s appalling rate of child abuse are being welcomed by child advocates but Opposition parties say the Government has failed to address poverty which can exacerbate the risk. Social Development Minister Paula Bennett today launched the White Paper for Vulnerable Children, which is the culmination of four years’ work and consultation with thousands of community groups and parents. The Government plans to establish a database for at-risk children, set up a Child Protect phone line for concerned family, neighbours and friends, and trained professions such as teachers and doctors to recognised the signs of child abuse. The measures stop short of mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse which raised concerns at-risk children would drop out of the system and services would be over-run with notifications. Child advocacy group Jigsaw’s co-chief executives Sally Christie said the measures would help stop children slipping through the net because Government agencies were not sharing information. “The new system will be secure, with passwords and monitoring built in, which will be reassuring for families.”
Adults who pose risk to kids face bans
Adults who have never been convicted of any crime may soon be banned from living or associating with children on the “balance of probabilities” that they may pose a threat. Today’s White Paper on Vulnerable Children says this will be one of “a range of tough new measures targeting people who present a high risk of continuing to hurt children”. A background document says courts will be given powers to impose new “child abuse prevention orders” regulating a wide range of associations with children. “There might also be a condition available to the court to apply a presumption that any future children of the person be removed, if the court is satisfied that the risk posed by the person justifies such a presumption.” The radical change comes in response to frustrations that the current system can remove particular children from an abusive or neglectful parent, but cannot do anything if that parent later has further children or moves into a new relationship unless a new complaint is received.
Child abuse phone line slammed by Greens
A new phone line for reporting suspected cases of child abuse and neglect is among the proposals in the Government’s white paper on vulnerable children. The line will be run independently from Child, Youth and Family as a one-stop point to triage calls. “Many people are concerned about children but don’t want to call Child, Youth and Family (CYF). This new line will be the first point of contact and ensure the right response,” Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said on Thursday. She said the line would encourage people to seek help for children without feeling they’re creating trouble or bringing authorities into the home.
Serious reports of concern about the safety of children would still be referred to CYF, but less serious concerns could be triaged and referred to community groups like Barnados.