11 Oct 2012

Child protection paper 'ignores issue of poverty'

6:40 pm on 11 October 2012

The Labour and Green parties say the Government's White Paper on Vulnerable Children ignores poverty - a driver of child abuse and neglect.

The Government is to set up a database of at-risk children allowing agencies, social workers, schools and health professionals to share information on a particular child.

Teachers and doctors are to be given training to recognise signs of abuse as part of the Government's plan to tackle New Zealand's high rate of child abuse.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett released the paper on Thursday which has taken months of consultation and incorporated thousands of submissions.

Labour says a child from a low socio-economic background is eight times more likely to end up in hospital.

Social development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says while the paper is a good starting point, it fails to address child poverty, which makes it hard for thousands of children to thrive. She says adequate resourcing of agencies such as Child, Youth and Family is crucial.

However, Paula Bennett says poverty is no excuse - and says she has known many people living in difficult financial circumstances who have never abused or neglected their children.

United Future leader Peter Dunne says it will be important to protect information gathered about New Zealand's most vulnerable children.

Mrs Bennett is guaranteeing the security of the information. Government agencies and some community groups will have access, but there will be penalties for misuse.

Mr Dunne says safeguards must be put in place for such sensitive information, but a new approach to information sharing has the potential to provide real benefits.

However, he says he is sceptical about the ability of the various government agencies to be able to work together.