25 Jul 2012

System still failing children - minister

7:52 pm on 25 July 2012

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett concedes the system is still failing some children, in response to a Coroner's report on the deaths of the Kahui twins in 2006.

Garry Evans has made specific recommendations aimed at preventing other such deaths.

These include looking at whether it should be mandatory for health agencies to report suspected abuse, and child protection units in each District Health Board.

Ms Bennett says a forthcoming white paper on vulnerable children will set future policy and Cabinet is yet to decide on mandatory reporting.

The Green Party says mandatory reporting of child abuse could result in children not being taken to hospital in the first place.

But Ms Bennett says that long as children are still dying at the hands of those who are supposed to protect them, the system is not working as it should.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia says the real change has to come from within families and communities.

She says families and communities need to be much more proactive about notifying authorities if they are aware that child abuse is occurring.

Further comment

The Children's Commissioner says New Zealanders need to become intolerant of abuse against women and children.

Russell Wills told Morning Report there has been a big rise in public intolerance of abuse, but families and whanau need to work harder to stand up to abusers in order to protect children.

School principals critical

School principals say government agencies, not schools, are the weak link in the child protection system and there is little point in changes suggested by the coroner.

Mr Evans has recommended changing the Education Act to make education authorities responsible for child protection and oblige them to work with other state agencies.

The Secondary Principals Association and the Principals Federation say schools already feel obliged to look out for and report suspected child abuse.

They say schools are doing their job well but they are critical of government agencies, which they say can be slow to act on abuse allegations.

Child Youth and Family says it has to prioritise, but it nearly always acts within 24-hours on the most serious cases.

Focus on stopping similar deaths: Sharples

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples says people may be angry because no one has been brought to justice for the deaths of the Kahui twins but the focus needs to shift to stopping similar deaths.

Dr Sharples, as the MP for Tamaki Makaurau, negotiated with the Kahui family when they would not co-operate with police investigating the case.

He says laying blame can be a way of excusing responsibility.