Child abuse is rising in NZ

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 23/10/2013

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Sixty children a day are being abused, with few signs that New Zealand's appalling record of caring for our young is improving.

Latest figures show there were 21,778 substantiated child abuse claims in the year to June, slightly more than in the previous year.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said it was still early days in the fight against child abuse.

"The fact that children are being seriously abused and neglected at such high rates proves in itself that our priority and attention should be on them," she said.

Children's Commissioner Russell Wills said the number showed the public's tolerance for violence against women and children still had a way to go.

"One is too many and 22,000 is a very high number . . . We need it to come down," he said.

Abuse against children was strongly linked to domestic violence, with most of the thousands of kids who had suffered "emotional abuse" witnessing a parent being assaulted.

"If we want the number to fall, attitudes need to change so that violence against women and children is not tolerated."

The Ministry of Social Development figures show that, in addition to victims of emotional abuse, there were 3200 assaults on children, and a further 1400 instances of sexual abuse.

These included 37 children who had already been removed from their parents' homes, only to be abused by their approved Child, Youth and Family carers.

But Wills said that, although the abuse was still too high, there were some positive signs of a turnaround, with the number of confirmed cases flattening after rising steadily for years. "I think we will see a drop."

Labour children's spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said that despite abuse claims dropping, the number substantiated remained stubbornly high.

The Government was too focused on identifying child abuse at the expense of preventing it. "I think we are going to see those numbers continue to increase."

But Bennett rejected the suggestion the Government was too narrowly focused. "The Government has consistently demonstrated a focus on vulnerable New Zealanders, targeting funding, support and initiatives to those most in need or at risk."

Child, Youth and Family chief social worker Paul Nixon said assaults on children had dropped, but emotional abuse and neglect were more difficult to tackle.

The Government is pushing through law changes aimed at curbing child abuse. These include more rigorous vetting of 376,000 Government employees who work with children, including teachers and social workers.

Child protection orders would be imposed on suspected child abusers.

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BY THE NUMBERS

148,209 notifications of child abuse or neglect

21,778 cases of substantiated abuse

12,072 of emotional abuse

5104 of neglect

3190 of assault

1412 of sexual abuse

17,181 children abused 2

309 children abused more than once in the past six months

37 children abused under state care.

- Fairfax Media

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