21 Dec 2011

Child welfare report recommends 13 changes

10:12 pm on 21 December 2011

The Government says it will continue to introduce measures to help keep children safe, following an independent report into the repeated abuse of a nine-year-old girl by her parents.

Earlier this year, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett called for the report in response to the case and other matters relating to the welfare, safety and protection of children.


The Auckland District Court was told the mother subjected her daughter and seven-year-old son to physical and mental abuse.

The woman admitted a raft of child abuse charges earlier this year and was jailed for seven-and-a-half years on Wednesday. The father will be sentenced in February next year.

The report was compiled by former ombudsman Mel Smith. It was released on Wednesday and makes 13 recommendations.

They include better information sharing among agencies, more social workers in schools, mandatory reporting of abuse and neglect, a new Child Protection Court and urgent research on kinship care.

Paula Bennett says 25 agencies were involved with the Auckland family, but there was no single, glaring failure by any one agency in the case.

The minister told reporters on Wednesday the mother was good at hiding the abuse and getting attention for herself.

"It is clear from the report that most of the professionals and agencies who dealt with the mother of this child were manipulated into thinking she had her child's best interests at heart."

Ms Bennett says in the past year the Government has taken a number of measures to help protect vulnerable children, including action on some of the report's recommendations.

The Government is focused on protecting children and will do the hard work to make a difference, she says.

Mel Smith told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Wednesday he is confident his report will make a difference.