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Howard's End: Killing Children In Godzone

If Steve Maharey is right that there have been an average of 7 child homicides a year over the last 30 years, then that makes New Zealand bigger killers of children than the UK and the whole of Europe over the same period. John Howard writes.

The number of British children who die in suspicious circumstances or are killed by abusive parents is still twice the European average despite numerous inquiries into child fatalities in the past two decades, according to a report published late last week by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. (NSPCC)

I was astounded to learn that in the 21st Century an organisation with such a name was even needed. It appears that nothing has really changed in society since those appalling child-abuse times of Charles Dickens.

The NSPCC report entitled "Out of Sight" calls for urgent action to cut the high rate of child homicides in Britain. It says that despite the large number of high-profile cases and endless inquiries too few changes have been made.

The report gives harrowing accounts of 100 children who have died at the hands of parents or caregivers, starting with the case of Maria Colwell whose death in 1973 became the first big child abuse scandal.

Using Steve Maharey's figure of 7 New Zealand child homicides each year over the last 30 years, New Zealanders would have killed 210 children since 1973. That is outrageous because we have allowed it, and talked about it.

Worse, New Zealand government's of all political persuasions have essentially done nothing. And what do we do now? - yet another report. Golly, we're even looking at setting up a national register of children in an effort to cut child abuse.

Former Principal Youth Court Judge Mick Brown has recommended that in a report into the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services.

Judge Brown says " In Britain, concerned doctors and other health professionals involved in a child's welfare could check with a central child protection register managed by each local authority."

Well, it hasn't worked because at this very moment, Lord Laming is presently heading an official inquiry into the murder of Anna Climbie, the eight-year-old who died after years of abuse went unnoticed.

Indeed, the NSPCC report cites lack of information about the causes and circumstances of many child deaths also meant the full extent of the problem remained hidden.

Sorry Mick, despite your very best of intentions, it hasn't worked in Britain and neither will it work here.

What might work, instead of all the talking, reports and inquiries, is bringing back government-supported home visits of Plunket Nurses for families.

It won't be the perfect solution but at least it will provide a measure of weekly/monthly help to parents who are clearly struggling. It will also provide a measure of oversight to those who might have evil intentions towards their children.

Under the natural law of cause and effect, it's the parents who need help, perhaps as simple as a Plunket Nurse home visit or even a job with dignity.

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. They must, they have no other models.

OK politicians, enough reports already, get to it.

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