2 Nov 2010

Call for mandatory reporting of child abuse

3:40 pm on 2 November 2010

Medical organisations want the law changed so doctors, nurses and other health professionals have to report any evidence of child abuse.

Mandatory reporting was raised on Monday at the inquest into the deaths of the Kahui twins, Chris and Cru, in 2006.

Coroner Garry Evans questioned whether health professionals should be obligated to report evidence of abuse.

The Medical Association and Paediatric Society both support the suggestion, the latter saying doctors would be more confident reporting suspected abuse if they knew it was a legal requirement.

But welfare groups are cautioning against such law changes.

Barnados says the idea has its drawbacks. Jigsaw says mandatory reporting could lead to false reports, which would overload social service agencies.

No easy answer, says commissioner

Children's Commissioner John Angus says there are greater priorities in tackling child abuse than introducing mandatory reporting of suspected cases to Child, Youth & Family.

Mr Angus said mandatory reporting was not a magic bullet and it would reinforce the idea that a referral to social services ended the responsibility of healthcare workers.

He said referrals were not the weak link in the system and improvements in helping families were more important.