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Doctors Better Armed To Help Fight Child Abuse

A new booklet giving doctors clear information on how to spot and deal with child abuse has been officially launched at the Beehive today by Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey and Health Minister Annette King.

The recommended referral process for GPs, entitled Suspected child abuse and neglect, has been developed by Child, Youth and Family and the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, with the support of the Ministry of Health and the endorsement of the New Zealand Medical Association. The recommended referral process is consistent with recommendations in the James Whakaruru report.

"The nature of doctors' work means they often deal with the reality of abuse at the frontline. In the past, there's been some uncertainty at times about how they should react. This new booklet gives them clear information on how to recognise signs of abuse and how to refer cases on to Child, Youth and Family or the police.

"We've all been sickened by the dreadful cases of abuse that have come to public attention in recent years. Everyone has to take responsibility for tackling the problem.

"Development of this booklet is a great example of government and the community working together in the interests of protecting at-risk children. The Whakaruru report graphically highlighted the dangers of agencies not working together closely," the Ministers said.

The booklet will be made available to all doctors. Its contents include:

- A master copy of a fax form for alerting Child, Youth and Family to concerns;

- A recommended abuse referral process to be followed;

- Clear information about the signs of abuse and neglect; and,

- Advice on legal issues.

. . / 2

"The booklet makes it clear there are no legal barriers to doctors disclosing patient information relating to suspected or actual child abuse when this is done in good faith to an appropriate authority.

"Training will be available for doctors and other health care providers on the recommended referral process. We will also be making the booklet available to medical and nursing schools so that they can incorporate the information into their teaching programmes," the Ministers said.

Mrs King says the Ministry of Health will later this year be organising a training programme for all health professionals on the wider issue of family violence. $2.8 million has been set aside over the next three years for the development and implementation of Family Violence Intervention Protocols.

Mr Maharey says Child, Youth and Family is continuing negotiations with a number of other organisations on the best ways they can report suspected child abuse.


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