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Nia Glassie case poses challenge to new government

News release

Nia Glassie case poses challenge to new government, says family violence expert

The Nia Glassie case highlights the need for intensive early intervention services targeting families at the highest level of risk, says a family violence expert.

Dr Annabel Taylor is chair of the Family Help Trust, and a senior lecturer in social work at the University of Canterbury. She says the new government must take the opportunity to provide sustainable funding for social service agencies to work with families of the most vulnerable children to prevent future tragedies like that of Nia Glassie.

“Nia Glassie’s name is added to a shameful roll call of New Zealand children killed by their parents or caregivers. That list includes Chris and Cru Kahui. Anaru Rogers, Delcelia Whittaker, Craig Manukau and James Whakaruru. Cases like theirs are tragic. The tragedy is compounded because of the monotonous repetition with which such cases occur. That such cases are preventable make it a cause for profound national shame.

“What we must do to prevent child abuse is adequately fund social services targeted specifically at the ultra high risk families, which Nia Glassie and all of these other children have come from.

“We already have such services that are proven to work effectively for the most vulnerable New Zealand children. We just do not have adequate funding to extend the service to protect every child in need.

“This is a big challenge for the new government, but the level of funding necessary is totally justified from the perspective of saving the lives of innocent young children such as Nia Glassie. It is also justified from the wider economic perspective: spending one dollar on early intervention services now will save $19 in the future when those children, should they survive such an adverse family background, will otherwise cost the state in criminal justice, policing, corrections, mental health and unemployment budgets,” she says.

According to Dr Taylor there are many other families where similar cases to that of Nia Glassie will occur in the future, unless specialised early intervention programmes are introduced and funded to prevent abuse.

“Every year in New Zealand there are many children born to people with inadequate parenting skills: dysfunctional families who face multiple problems such as drug addiction, poverty, a criminal record, a poor standard of housing, long term unemployment, poor education, inability to find work and having been subject themselves to childhood maltreatment. These are the families where child abuse occurs as a matter of course, and where cases such as that of Nia Glassie will happen again.

“Effective early intervention with these families, to provide adequate parenting skills, is the only proven way to help ensure their children grow up in a safe, sound and stable environment, with a better chance of a more fulfilling life.

“At present programmes that provide these services do not receive sustainable funding to fully meet the need that exists. The services provided by the Family Help Trust, for example, only meet about 20 per cent of the need in Canterbury, and even then we are doing considerably better than is the case elsewhere in the country.

“We have been in touch with the decision makers in the new government, and are hopeful that they will accept this challenge, to make a difference to those children who are in greatest need and save innocent lives.

“We have the solution, proven over 18 years of successful practise, but we do not have sufficient money to meet the whole of the need,” she said.

Dr Annabel Taylor teaches social policy and social work practice at the University of Canterbury School of Social Work and Human Services.

She is also chair of the Family Help Trust, which provides child abuse prevention services to the most vulnerable infants, from birth up to five years, working intensively with their families to provide support through basic health and education programmes. Financed by a mix of government funding and charitable donations, the Family Help Trust has resources to work with around 40 children born in Christchurch each year.


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