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Raft of changes to better protect children

Hon Paula Bennett
Minister for Social Development

Minister of Youth Affairs

9 February 2012 Media Statement

Learning results in raft of changes to better protect children

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says a Ministerial Inquiry into a case of serious abuse of a nine year old, has led to major changes.

“Both parents responsible for the appalling litany of abuse against their nine year old child have now been found guilty and sentenced and that’s where the primary responsibility lies,” says Ms Bennett.

”But I called for a Ministerial Inquiry because it was clear multiple agencies and adults missed the abuse and we have to do things better.”

The Inquiry carried out by former Ombudsman Mel Smith contained thirteen recommendations.

“Most of the recommendations have been addressed and some are included for public consultation through the Green Paper,” says Ms Bennett.

We’ve announced an extra 149 social workers in schools and 96 on the frontline, the Failure to Protect (Crimes Act Amendment) law was passed and the Privacy (Information Sharing) Amendment Bill is progressing.

Within Child, Youth and Family, filing and reporting systems have been reviewed and training of CYF workers to lift practise and supervision has been overhauled. A dedicated phone line for teachers has also been introduced.

“We also signed a memorandum of understanding between CYF, Health and Police so these three agencies can better work together.”

Mel Smith also recommended all agencies have a child centred focus, mandatory reporting of abuse and greater information sharing.

“All of these things are central to the Green Paper and are being publicly debated, I’m also raising questions about kinship care in that process.”

The idea of a Children’s Court is being considered.

“We’ve also agreed changes to ensure child witnesses are better treated, which is part of that child-focused approach,” says Ms Bennett.

“The case that sparked this Inquiry was unusual and it was a big step to call for a Ministerial Inquiry but the lessons have been pivotal to improvements across Government and to the formation of the Green Paper.”

These changes are in addition to work done over the first term of the National Government including:

• The Never, Ever Shake a Baby Campaign
• Supporting Auckland District Health Board’s shaken baby prevention pilot
• The NGO First Response Trial
• Placed CYF social workers into hospitals
• Multi-disciplinary meetings before abused child leaves hospital
• Better data and monitoring systems
• Independent Experts Forum

Green Paper submissions close 28 February and can be made at:

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