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Child poverty doco highlights need for political leadership



Child poverty documentary highlights need for political leadership to deal with child abuse

This week TV3 Inside New Zealand aired a controversial special on child poverty which highlighted the huge issue of child poverty in New Zealand.

Child Matters, New Zealand’s child abuse prevention specialists, supports Bryan Bruce call – that we must mandate to put our children first; that we must focus on the needs of children, not the status of parents; and that this must happen across all political parties.

It is timely to bring the issue of protecting our children to the forefront and start asking the tough questions about how we prioritise our children. Child Matters Academic Services Manager, Amanda Meynell, encourages everyone to ask questions of electoral candidates about what they plan to do to prioritise the needs of children.

It was clear in a recent leader’s debate, when Phil Goff and John Key were asked where they stood on the child abuse issue that neither had a clear understanding of the complexities of issue, other than we need to look at it from a preventative point of view. NZ ranks very poorly in nearly all statistics around our children’s health and welfare. To change this, we must have a clear shared vision of what we want for our children and then strong leadership at a political level to achieve that vision.

Bryan spoke to a school principal who questioned how schools are expected to achieve literacy and numeracy objectives when children are hungry and can’t concentrate. The same question can be asked as to how children can be expected to concentrate and learn when they are traumatised and afraid, as a result of abuse they receive at home.

He spoke of our child health system being geared up to managing health crises at the last possible moment.

Mrs Meynell says “Until we make child protection training compulsory for professionals working with children, we are also inevitably going to be working at the crisis end of the spectrum with child abuse.”

“The professionals such as teachers who work with our children every day are best placed to identify problems of abuse. Unfortunately many of them are not equipped to recognise the signs of abuse, and without specialist child protection training they will not pick up many of the subtle signs that a child may be suffering abuse.”

Bryan visited Sweden where there is a clear philosophy of investing in their children as children are the future of their society. When speaking to parents and professionals in Sweden it was stated as ‘obvious’ that it is far more cost effective to have an organised system of prevention of diseases associated with poverty, than it is to be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.

Mrs Meynell points out “Exactly the same applies for child abuse. Yes, it will cost money to train all of our professionals in child protection. But this would be a fraction of the cost that we currently spend on dealing with the immediate and long term costs associated with child abuse. An investment in training now would save millions of dollars in health, justice and mental health services every year.”

“Bryan talks about the state setting up a ‘protective umbrella’ for children by way of providing nutritional meals, healthy homes and preventative healthcare. The same ‘protective umbrella’ should be extended to ensuring that every adult in a position to either prevent child abuse or intervene early so that the harm is minimised, is trained and confident to be able to recognise it and take appropriate action.”



About Child Matters:

• Child Matters is the only organisation in New Zealand solely focused on child abuse prevention.

• It works to prevent child abuse by 1) speaking up for New Zealand children; and 2) educating adults to identify child abuse and take the appropriate action.

• Child Matters is a catalyst in communities, working to connect organisations and build leaders who are making positive impacts on child abuse prevention.

• Child Matters is an independent charitable trust with a cross sector view and influence around child abuse in New Zealand. It has links to all organisations who work with children and enables them to tackle the issue of child abuse in their local communities.

• Every adult in New Zealand is affected in some way by child abuse and, therefore, Child Matters believes every adult has a role to play in protecting children. Its child abuse prevention educational programmes are a powerful solution.

• Child Matters believes child abuse prevention education must be made compulsory for all key organisations working with children.

• Child Matters works with a range of organisations to educate their staff to identify child abuse and take the appropriate action. It encourages organisations to adopt a child abuse prevention education and staff wellness programme to demonstrate they take child abuse prevention seriously.

• Child Matters operates nationally.

• For more information, visit: www.childmatters.org.nz

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