27 Apr 2010

DHB seeks mandatory reporting of child abuse

7:13 am on 27 April 2010

The Waitemata District Health Board is to ask the Government to implement mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect.

The district health board says there is no legal obligation for people to report incidents and board members have voted unanimously to call for legislation to change this.

The DHB says it is open to discussion about who reports should be lodged with. Board member Pat Booth says talks could be held about who reports of abuse or neglect should be lodged with.

"It could well be social welfare, WINZ or its equivalent, police or a combination of them. It could be that there would be a definite organisational arrangement so that information went to a particular group of specialists in the field."

Mr Booth says the DHB is in the process of writing to the Ministers of Justice and Social Welfare and the Attorney-General for support.

Waitakere mayor Bob Harvey, also co-chair of a mayoral taskforce on family violence, has applauded the DHB's decision.

"This country has got to face up to the fact that too many of our children and our babies are being lost in a system which basically misses them. Marginalised, they simply fall through the cracks. This way, we'll be there to save both the babies and the families."

But a welfare group is wary of the proposed introduction of mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect.

A spokesperson for the charity Barnados, Deborah Morris Travers, says mandatory reporting can have unintended consequences, as it could lead to parents not seeking medical care for injured children for fear of being reported when the injury has nothing to do with abuse.

Ms Travers says it is the kind of issue that needs to be thought through very carefully.