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Early intervention crucial in reducing family violence

Early intervention crucial in reducing family violence numbers

Emma Hatton, Journalist

The Justice Sector's chief science advisor has singled early intervention out as a crucial way to combat New Zealand's staggering family violence statistics.

Ninety-two women were killed by their partners and 52 children died from abuse and neglect in the seven years to 2015.

The report, which was released yesterday, came out strongly - stating "it goes without saying that early intervention is needed" and if done well - could break intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse.

It referred to evidence-based parenting programmes Triple P and Incredible Years, which are already set up and have scientific evidence backing the claim that they help households where there are child-welfare concerns.

Incredible Years is an international programme and in New Zealand it's run by various agencies, trusts and charities.

A trustee of a charity which hosts the programme in Wellington, Diana Linforth-Howden, said a lot of their parents are referred by Oranga Tamariki.

"The course we've just finished, there was a mum there whose children had been removed by Oranga Tamariki. There was quite a lot of drug use in the family and quite a lot of domestic violence.

"She did the course and then her partner - who she had split from - did the course at a different venue and at the end they both said not only did they feel much more confident and secure in their parenting but they can now also support each other - they're not warring anymore," Ms Linforth-Howden said.

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The report's author Dr Ian Lambie said the provision of these types of programmes needed to grow.

He said all the evidence pointed to making sure children had a good upbringing.

"The evidence points to the need for early sustained support from pregnancy onwards, awareness and parenting skills that optimise child development."

"Secure attachment, adequate income, housing, nutrition, access to education, connections to communities and skilled parenting make a difference to a child's development and to the rates of violence."

The Justice Sector's chief science advisor Dr Ian Lambie Photo: RNZ / Jo Moir

The report stated that a parent who was a victim of family violence may not engage in positive parenting behaviour, such as warmth and engagement, more risk of neglect and more use of physical aggression and authoritarian parenting styles.

Almost 60,000 care and protection notifications involving children were received by Oranga Tamariki in the last financial year.

Psychologist Melanie Woodfield runs a programme out of the Auckland District Health Board's child and adolescent mental health service called Parent Child Interaction Theory (PCIT).

PCIT was when children and their parents were monitored by a psychologist who gave the parent real-time advice through an ear piece.

"It's really different from the other programmes because it involves live coaching. We coach them in the midst of the hard times so if the child's having a tantrum in the clinic we coach the parent through that."

But Dr Woodfield said the report didn't say parenting programmes were the silver bullet to solving family violence and New Zealand still had a long way to go.

"Parenting programmes teach skills which is great but the report really makes the point that parenting well means being supported."

A point Dr Lambie said New Zealand needed to make sure it could handle.

"There is no point in campaigns where there isn't the capacity in the system to respond to increased demand and referrals."

Dr Woodfield said such classes made a real difference and the government should consider funding them so they could be easily accessible for parents.

Where to get help:

Women's Refuge: (0800 733 843)

It's Not OK (0800 456 450)

Shine: 0508 744 633

] Victim Support]: 0800 650 654

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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