26 Aug 2015

Tolley sympathetic to state care child advocate

7:01 am on 26 August 2015

The Minister of Social Development says she is sympathetic to the idea of an independent child advocate for those in state care.

Anne Tolley.

Anne Tolley. Photo: RNZ

The suggestion is made in a report which has found children in state care faced alarming amounts of historic abuse and neglect with extreme levels of violence.

Read the full document here (PDF)

The Confidential Listening and Assistance Service spent nearly seven years talking with 1100 individuals who were placed in foster homes, boys and girls homes or psychiatric institutions before 1992.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said she liked the idea of children in state care having an official advocate but was waiting to hear back from a panel, headed by Paula Rebstock, that is looking at a complete overhaul of Child Youth and Family.

That panel is due to present its initial report to the minister, shortly.

Yesterday's report said the most shocking thing about the abuse reported to it was that most could have been prevented if people had been doing their jobs properly.

Wellington lawyer, Sonja Cooper, who represents people abused in state care, said while the report covered incidents only up until 1992, no one should think the problems ended then.

She said children who reported abuse were not believed in the past, and that remained the case today.

Ms Tolley said while the number of sexual abuse cases had stabilised in recent times it remained too high.

But she was confident work being done by the expert panel would help address the problem.

So far the Government has settled 940 historic abuse claims for children in state care with about $14 million paid in compensation.

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