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Child death figures highlight families in need

Turner: Child death figures highlight need to help families

Figures showing that all but one of 38 New Zealand children killed between 1998 and 2001 died at the hands of someone in their family circle, are further evidence that the Government must put families at the centre of its thinking, United Future's family affairs spokeswoman Judy Turner said today.

"And that is simply not happening. We've got to turn the tide and make New Zealand families a safe place for all our children to grow up," Mrs Turner said.

"These figures are a national tragedy, but a tragedy that will only be repeated over and over again if families are not helped and supported.

"The Government needs to step up to the mark with early intervention strategies that can cut these situations off at the pass. There needs to be more parental education. We've got to stop presuming that people automatically have the skills to raise children and hold healthy families together, because in too many cases they don't.

"There has got to be better co-ordination between - and at times within - government and community agencies, because too many of these deaths have been all too clearly signposted, but intervention has either not been there or been ineffectual," she said.

"The fact is that very rarely do families reach the stage where a child is killed without there being very real warning signs that something is seriously wrong. As a society, we have to get in there and do something about it."

Mrs Turner said the Families Commission, a United Future initiative which will come into being in July next year, would play a key role in focusing Government on the real needs of families, and addressing the type of issues that were behind each of the tragedies in the police statistics.

"All families have strengths and weaknesses, and we need to help them identify areas in which they could do with some support, put them in touch with organisations that can help them and, most importantly, change the Kiwi culture that equates asking for help with admitting failure. It is not - it takes great courage."

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