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Vulnerable Children Bill gains momentum

Hon Paula Bennett

Minister for Social Development

25 March 2014 Media Statement

Vulnerable Children Bill gains momentum

“The Vulnerable Children Bill marks a major overhaul in strengthening our child protection system and making sure fewer children are abused,” says Social Development Paula Bennett in welcoming the Bill’s report back.

“I am pleased the Social Services Select Committee had the chance to hear from many people who are committed to improving the lives of our most vulnerable children and protecting children from violence and neglect.

“Their input has been valuable and welcome.

“We are strengthening the accountability of five key Government agencies to work together to improve the lives of vulnerable children – the Ministries of Social Development, Education, Health and Justice, and Police.

“Children’s Teams will see professionals from all these sectors collaborating, planning and improving services to prevent the abuse in the first place.

“The first two Children’s Teams are being trialled now in Rotorua and Whangarei and are already making a difference in the lives of those families.

The Bill will also protect the subsequent children of known child abusers

“As far as I’m concerned, if you have seriously abused children in the past, you have forfeited the right to be in a position to do so again. Under the Bill, these parents would have to demonstrate they are ‘safe to parent’ if they want to care for another child.

“Some submitters have raised some important issues, and as a result I’m supporting some modifications to the Bill. These include:

• More detail of the roles and professions where safety checking of paid children’s workers will be required.

• A further 18 offences – relating to serious violent and sexual offending and objectionable material – to be added to the serious convictions that would prevent a person from working alone with or having responsibility for children in their job.

• Changes that maintain employees’ rights without compromising the safety of children by providing a five day suspension period for concerns to be addressed between an employer and a convicted person before termination can occur.

Mrs Bennett recently announced the proposed child harm prevention orders would not proceed. The select committee has recommended that the provisions for these orders be removed from the Bill.

“Vulnerable children’s lives are at stake. I know all MPs are committed to doing everything they can to see our children protected from harm and I hope they will reflect that by voting for this very important Bill,” says Mrs Bennett.


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