27 Jan 2012

Pacific leaders criticise lack of focus on families

10:09 am on 27 January 2012

The Minister of Social Development has been criticised by Pacific Island communities for focusing too much on children instead of families in her Green Paper for Vulnerable Children.

The minister, Paula Bennett, attended a meeting of more than 100 Pacific community leaders and service providers in south Auckland on Thursday.

The spokesperson for 20 Pacific service providers, Hayden Solomon, said child-centred policies are foreign to Pacific communities.

He said those communities believe that healthy families mean healthy children.

Other speakers called for the creation of Pacific villages in cities, with more affordable housing, so extended families could live near each other to help raise their children.

Ms Bennett said children are becoming more vulnerable in Pacific communities with more sole parents and more families dependent on welfare.

She said Pacific communities have an excellent record of caring for babies under two but there is neglect and abuse of older children.

Ms Bennett says the Pacific meeting's call to create villages in the city to raise children is a step forward in the debate on how to better protect vulnerable children.