23 Jan 2015

Reports of child abuse fall

11:52 am on 23 January 2015

Child abuse figures have fallen for the first time in a decade, driven mostly by a large drop in reports of emotional abuse.

In the year to June 2014, 9499 children were reported to have been emotionally abused, down from about 11,386 the year before.

The number of children reported as sexually abused also fell, from 1423 to 1294.

Cases of physical abuse stayed about the same, at 3178 in 2014 compared to 3181 in 2013.

Some children fell into more than one category.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said it was too early to draw conclusions on whether the government's policies can be credited for the drop.

Ms Tolley said the number of children abused was still appallingly high and there was a long way to go.

Children's Commissioner Russell Wills said the fall in statistics was encouraging, but may signal a drop in referrals to Child Youth and Family rather than an actual decline in abuse.

He said the figures coincide with a new strategy where doctors or police may not automatically call Child Youth and Family in cases where children have witnessed domestic violence.

Instead the family may be referred directly to a group that specialises in preventing domestic violence.