Child-abuse prevention pilot starts in Rotorua

Rotorua will be the first region to have a group of social service experts selected to stop child abuse under a Children's Team pilot scheme announced by Paula Bennett.

The Social Development Minister made the announcement yesterday at a meeting with social service providers in Rotorua.

Under the recently released White Paper on Vulnerable Children, teams of professionals from health, education, police, justice, social services, and Child, Youth and Family will be chosen in each region to assess the needs of vulnerable children.

Mrs Bennett said individuals in each of the Children's Teams would be able to bring together the pieces to "complete the jigsaw".

Team members would be able to share information about a vulnerable child to either prevent abuse or remove the child from the abuse.

Each Children's Team will be headed by a regional children's director, who will bring key agencies together and ensure the system is working to identify and provide support for vulnerable children.

The regional director would have access to funding to allocate to vulnerable children.

"If everyone had been able to put the pieces of the puzzle together concerning Nia Glassie, we would have realised she was living a life of hell," Mrs Bennett said.

About 26 government agencies held "a little piece" of information on the infant's abuse before she was killed in 2007 but the information was not widely shared.

Child abuse figures in Rotorua had dropped from 871 to 529 substantiated cases in the past two years, she said. "We now want to take it to the next level."

The programme will be phased in over a year with the first team selected for Rotorua by December.

Mrs Bennett said former police commissioner Howard Broad would head an independent investigation into the complaints process at CYF.

Tertiary social science lecturer Erina Ata said outside the meeting that she supported the concept of better information sharing and regional children's teams to pinpoint abuse in the community.

"The new system will hopefully bring the pieces of the puzzle together but at the same time it is a huge responsibility for each member of the Children's Team to exercise."

The Dominion Post