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Salvation Army Report in a Long Line of Calls to Action

12 February 2014

Salvation Army Report Another in a Long Line of Calls to Action

The State of the Nation report released by the Salvation Army today is a reminder to all New Zealanders that each and every one of us has a part to play in improving the lives of Kiwi kids. It is also a reminder that so far we are not doing enough.

“In recent years there has been a succession of reports highlighting the impact of poverty and violence on children, calling for government and community action. And while there is a higher level of public, political and media interest in these issues, child wellbeing data shows clearly that policy and early investment in children remains inadequate,” says UNICEF NZ National Advocacy Manager, Deborah Morris-Travers.

“Of particular concern are the enduringly high child poverty statistics. Children experiencing poverty tell us they are hungry and cold, their shoes don’t fit, and they are missing out on things that other kids have. Other children express concern about the wellbeing of children in their schools who don’t have enough to eat. The government’s own living standards research shows children are missing out on visits to doctors, healthy food, school trips and other educational opportunities.

“We can change this if there is sufficient concern among the general public and if there is the political will to put in place a comprehensive plan with policies that support sole parents, increase family education, create jobs, make quality housing affordable and support healthy communities. We need targets and we need to measure our progress so that we know what is working.”

UNICEF is also concerned that substantiated child abuse cases have risen but urges caution in the interpretation of child abuse data. It has been claimed that increased cases of child abuse illustrates a failure of Section 59 of the Crimes Act. That 2007 law change improved the legal protection for children so that parents couldn’t easily be acquitted when charged with assaulting a child.

Along with the Section 59 law came increased public awareness that violence against children shouldn’t be tolerated, leading to increases in notifications to Child, Youth and Family. Increased awareness and reporting are important to ensure action is taken on behalf of children living with violence. The law is part of creating social norms that don’t tolerate physical punishment.

Child abuse is a complex issue. Research shows that the actions required include:

1. Creating a positive view of children
2. Developing social norms that don’t tolerate physical punishment
3. Addressing drug and alcohol abuse
4. Reducing poverty and improving housing conditions
5. Improving parents’ mental health
6. Ensuring parents are well supported, with connections to their community/family

(http://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/literature-reviews/preventing-maltreatment/index.html)

“When it comes to Section 59, anyone suggesting that an amendment to the current law would somehow make children safer is wrong. Section 59 is a law used after child abuse has occurred. What we need now is investment in the primary prevention strategies that build stronger, safer families for children,” Ms Morris-Travers added.

“We are pleased that the Salvation Army has again released an excellent State of the Nation report that calls on New Zealanders to apply pressure to policy makers. We hope the public will convey a strong expectation that all political parties will advance the rights and interests of children. As the report says, failure to act means we are sitting on a time bomb,” concluded Ms Morris-Travers.

About UNICEF
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

More about UNICEF NZ: www.unicef.org.nz

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