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Improved vetting needed yesterday

Improved vetting needed yesterday

June 17, 2013

Improved vetting of Child, Youth & Family caregivers can't come soon enough, says the head of a mentoring programme that has successfully screened over 550 men since 1997.

Big Buddy CEO Richard Aston’s call follows the release of child abuse statistics showing a 32% rise over the last five years. More than 21,000 cases were reported last year, resulting in some 4000 children being placed in supposedly safe CYF homes. At least 23 of these children were further abused in care.

“This is simply unacceptable and should not be happening,” says Richard Aston. “Improved vetting should be an absolute priority for Government if we want to safeguard vulnerable children – particularly those taken into care. If Big Buddy can do it for fatherless boys, CYF can do it for children in their care.”

The Children’s Action Plan – released last October - promised new vetting and screening guidelines within six months and draft legislation by the end of this year.

“I wonder how that’s going,” says Richard Aston. “It’s simply not good enough for Prime Minister John Key to say the higher rates probably reflect increased reporting. 23 children being abused in care is 23 too many.”

The latest figures prompted District Court Judge Carolyn Henwood to call for an independent monitoring organisation for children in care.

Richard Aston says independent monitoring is a sensible suggestion, but “let’s start where the problem is - with the abusers - not the children. Let's get serious about protecting our children by urgently setting up an independent screening agency."

The call for urgent action is supported by Family Action CEO Michelle Clayton. “We work with children and adults who have experienced abuse and see the devastating effects on their lives and enormous impact on their families. Steps to protect children should be a priority.”

Ministry of Social Development deputy chief executive David Shanks said criminal checks for CYF placements only became compulsory early in 2012. He said the process had since been strengthened “with staff expected to do police checks if there were any concerns around family/whanau placements”.

But criminal checks are simply not good enough, says Richard Aston. "A police check is just one part of a much bigger screening process. We have developed a robust 360-degree process to ensure the safety of the fatherless boys we work with. We are confident we can identify emotionally unsafe men and active and potential sex offenders, who we would not accept as mentors. I challenge CYF to do the same, as an urgent priority."



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