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Child abuse prevention an election issue

News release

Child abuse prevention set to become an election issue, says family violence expert

An authority in the prevention of child abuse has urged voters to make family violence an election issue.

Dr Annabel Taylor is chair of the Family Help Trust, and a senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury School of Social Work and Human Services. She has seen a series of developments in the past week drawing attention to child abuse, but says bids by various political parties to score points against each other will do nothing to help children who are the victims of family violence.

“It looks to me as if this could become an important election issue as there is some differentiation between the political parties. That is good as the prevention of family violence is something we all have an important stake in, but not if we lose sight of the victims of abuse at the expense of rhetoric.

“At the weekend, in Waitakere, there was a memorial event for victims of child abuse and family violence; the National Party’s social policy announcements have drawn attention to the issue; a recently released report on child poverty focuses on the fact that 200,000 children in New Zealand live below the poverty line and are therefore at considerably elevated risk of neglect; and CYF has reported a recent rise in reporting of child abuse.

“It is encouraging that notifications have increased, as this appears to indicate a growing intolerance of child abuse and neglect within New Zealand communities, rather than an increase in the incidence of abuse.

“What to do with the children suffering from abuse and neglect is the important next step to take. Early intervention is crucial. Working intensively with high-risk families is the most successfully proven method of reducing the risk, and therefore the incidence, of child abuse. It is the Family Help Trust’s experience that families want to do better, but they need support to do this,” she said.

According to Annabel Taylor, the next step is to ask how much New Zealanders are prepared to invest in caring for the most vulnerable children.

“If the prevention of child abuse is to become an election issue, the focus needs to be on early intervention and prevention activities, not just on publicity and programmes to raise awareness.

“If we are to properly address this problem, at a political level, that is the part that needs to be taken seriously: how do we adequately resource programmes to help those families that are at greatest risk? If voters want to make a real difference, and save or improve the lives of the most vulnerable infants in our community, it is actual, practical early intervention that they must insist those auditioning for government must implement, not just awareness campaigns.

“Early intervention into families at greatest risk of child abuse by professional and scientifically based social work services will improve the statistics that currently put New Zealand to shame. Voters looking at policies from various political parties should ask whether or not these policies will deliver such services,” she said.

Dr Annabel Taylor is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Canterbury School of Social Work and Human Services, where she teaches social policy and social work practice. She is also chair of Christchurch’s Family Help Trust, which provides child abuse prevention services to the most vulnerable infants.


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