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Vulnerable Children Bill passed into law

Hon Paula Bennett

Minister for Social Development

19 June 2014 Media Statement

Vulnerable Children Bill passed into law

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has welcomed the passing of the Vulnerable Children’s Bill into law ensuring that New Zealand’s most at risk children get priority in accessing services and support.

“With more than 30 specific initiatives contained within the Children’s Action Plan, this new legislation provides a solid platform of accountability and monitoring never before seen in child protection to underpin the plan,” says Mrs Bennett.

The Vulnerable Children Act confers responsibility on the heads of five government departments, holding them directly accountable for improving the lives of vulnerable children.

The Ministries of Health, Education, Social Development, Justice and Police frontline staff must now ensure that children identified as vulnerable get the services and support they need to thrive.

“Every child in this country deserves good health, education and welfare. Most parents provide that but for those who can’t or won’t, government agencies must step in and be advocates for those children. I expect these children to now go to the front of the queue,” says Mrs Bennett.

The 10 new Children’s Teams, two of which are up and running now, will provide a coordinated group of professionals to plan and wrap services around at risk children early to keep them safe from harm so they can thrive, achieve and belong.

The new law introduces new vetting and screening checks for government and community agency staff working with children including banning people with serious convictions from working in core children workforce roles.

The legislation switches the onus on parents who have killed or severely abused or neglected a child. They will now have to prove they are safe to parent subsequent children.

Other changes include greater clarity in Family Group Conference plans that specify exactly what parents will need to do to meet their children’s needs. Children in care will also be enrolled in the Kiwisaver scheme, allowing better planning for their future.

“While no law can stop children being abused, neglected or killed, this new legislation transforms our child protection system. It means there will more eyes on vulnerable children, services and support will be prioritised and there will be greater vigilance on known abusers,” says Mrs Bennett.

To find out more on the Children’s Action plan visit: http://childrensactionplan.govt.nz/

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