Child abuse cases rise

Last updated 05:00 26/01/2013

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Child, Youth and Family received more than 2000 notifications of concern relating to children in Mid and South Canterbury last year, with further action required in 70 per cent of cases.

Figures for the 12 months to the end of June 2012 show the department received 2023 notifications, up almost 10 per cent on the previous 12 months. There had also been an increase in notifications in 2010-11.

Cases dealt with under child protection protocols - the highest threshold of concern - rose almost 25 per cent from 148 to 190 incidents. Police were often involved in those cases as an offence might have been committed.

The higher notification figures could well indicate the community now had more faith in the way CYF responded to such matters, southern regional director Kelly Anderson suggested.

She noted child abuse had a high profile last year, in part, due to the Government's white paper for vulnerable children.

"That has created a lot of awareness and conversation about what we think the right thing for children is. One of the consequences is people are more aware and more willing to talk to people when they have got concerns for children, Ms Anderson said.

"One of the things which happens with increased notifications is the sense that you have got a community that are wanting to engage in conversations and do something about what they are seeing."

Ms Anderson said that was particularly the case in smaller communities, once they gained confidence in organisations such as CYF.

The region (covering the Timaru and Ashburton offices) received six additional social work staff in the last year, and was thus able to respond more easily to the community, she said.

While staff deemed further action was required on 70 per cent of the notifications, much of that work would be undertaken by social agencies in the community, with CYF staff dealing with the most serious cases. The planned children's teams to be rolled out across the country would target that lower level abuse.

In that category were 314 cases of abuse - 137 of emotional abuse, 56 of physical abuse, 49 of sexual abuse and 72 of neglect. It was not unusual for one child to have experienced more than one type of abuse.

They were the types of cases CYF was likely to work with the police on because of the likelihood of an offence having been committed.

Even if a case did not fall into one of the more serious abuse categories, intervention from CYF could still be positive for the child and family, she said.

Notifications from the health sector increased more than 20 per cent, from 161 to 215. CYF social workers were now based in hospitals, providing health workers with someone to discuss concerns with. She had no doubt their involvement with hospital staff had raised their awareness of child abuse.

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There were 140 children in care on June 30, up 12 on 12 months earlier. Ms Anderson said the number was trending down.

Among those placed in care were four babies less than a month old. In most of those cases the family was already well known to CYF.

In such cases CYF would already have a lot of information about the family and babies were "too vulnerable to be mucking around", Ms Anderson said.

CHILD ABUSE NOTIFICATIONS

South & Mid Canterbury Care and Protection Notifications Notifier group 2011 2012 Family Violence 540 519 Education 167 172 Family 227 233 Health 161 215 Others 514 519 Police 247 363 Unknown 7 - Court - 2 Total 1863 2023

- The Timaru Herald

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