The safety and protection of children must come first

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett today released the Ministerial Inquiry into the abuse of a nine year old girl and other matters relating to the welfare, safety and protection of children in New Zealand.

“The Inquiry focused on a deeply saddening case of appalling abuse and also more broadly at how agencies deal with at risk families and children.”

Today this child’s mother was sentenced to seven and a half years for 25 cases of abuse against her daughter.

Sentencing of the child’s father has been deferred, but I have been advised releasing this report will not affect the sentencing outcome.

“This child was subjected to cruel and barbaric abuse from her own parents in an unusual case where the mother manipulated many into thinking she had her child’s best interests at heart,” says Ms Bennett.

Lord Laming said in his 2003 report to the British Parliament on the murder of Victoria Climbie that, “adults who deliberately exploit the vulnerability of children can behave in devious and menacing ways” and they “will often go to great lengths to hide their activities”.

“I believe that is what we have seen in this case,” says Ms Bennett.

“It’s important to remember the inquiry went wider than one case, so it can’t be assumed recommendations relate directly to the case of this young girl.”

The Ministerial Inquiry, conducted by former ombudsman Mel Smith, contains 13 recommendations.

Recommendations include:
• Better information sharing
• New CYF liason workers for schools
• Mandatory reporting of abuse and neglect
• Urgent research on kinship care
• Multi agency meetings, led by CYF
• Proceeding with amendments to Crimes Act and Privacy Act
• A new Child Protection Court

“The Green Paper on Vulnerable Children directly relates to the Ministerial Inquiry and raises issues like mandatory reporting and information sharing.”
“While we couldn’t release this Inquiry after it’s completion in March, the work has not stopped and most recommendations have been addressed.”
In the last year Government action for vulnerable children include:
• The Green Paper on Vulnerable Children
• More social workers in schools and on the frontline
• Review of Family Start
• Failure to Protect Bill passed
• Review of Family Court
• Working paediatrician appointed as Children’s Commissioner
• Children in Care package
• Agreement signed between CYF, Ministry of Health and Police
• Information Sharing Bill introduced
• Privacy Information Sharing Bill introduced
Child protection measures initiated by National since 2008:
• The Never, Ever Shake a Baby Campaign
• Supporting Auckland District Health Board’s shaken baby prevention pilot
• The NGO First Response Trial
• Placed CYF social workers into hospitals
• Multi-disciplinary meetings before abused child leaves hospital
• Better data and monitoring systems
• Independent Experts Forum

“This Government is focused on protecting children and we’re committed to doing the hard work to make a difference to child abuse,” says Ms Bennett.

“I can assure New Zealanders, we continue to introduce new measures across government to help keep children safe,” says Ms Bennett.