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Child Abuse Continues Unchecked

Child abuse advocacy group, Child Matters, is frustrated that calls to make Police vetting and child protection training mandatory for everyone who works with children have gone unheard

Child Matters Chief Executive, Jane Searle, says while changes in the law wouldn’t help those affected by historic sexual abuse, such as the recent Dilworth School situation, it would go a long way to help protect future generations – and provide guidelines to dealing with allegations of abuse appropriately.

“Earlier this year, the Children’s Commissioner lobbied the Government to make Police vetting mandatory for anyone who works with children, yet we’ve not seen anything coming out in election campaign promises.”

At the moment, vetting is only compulsory if the organisation falls under the Children’s Act, which includes Government agencies or those with Government contracts, including education and health.

Ms Searle says the Dilworth case is yet another example of why all schools and organisations who deal with children or young people need to prioritise their safety and wellbeing. That means having robust policy and procedures.

“It’s not enough for parents and caregivers to assume that the people around their children are ‘safe’ – there needs to be comprehensive child protection legislation to ensure that organisations are legally required to put policies in place and train their staff, including boards of trustees.

“In our experience, which includes more than 26 years working with hundreds of organisations across the country, is that unless government takes a stand and makes it mandatory, these measures will not be put in place in most cases.

“The result is that our children do not have the best protections in place to keep them safe,” says Ms Searle.

“This isn’t just about watching out for signs of abuse or neglect in tamariki and young people, but also to be able to know the signs of possible offending and how to deal with allegations of abuse appropriately.

“It’s high time we had these important conversations about child protection and safety, and to raise awareness amongst our whole community – it’s the only way to keep our most vulnerable safe and tackle this scourge.

“A child protection policy should be an intrinsic part of every organisation who work with children – no matter how indirectly – whether that’s your own employees or volunteers.”

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Child Matters is an independent organisation which works to stop child abuse through advocacy, training and practical partnerships

Unlike many other countries, in New Zealand child protection training is not mandatory for professionals or volunteers who work with children and young people – which means some of the key people in a child’s life may not be equipped with the skills and expertise to recognise the signs of abuse, and how best to respond.

Child Matters was formed in 1994 to meet this need by upskilling those working and interacting with children, young people and their families and whānau so they are able to identify risks concerning vulnerability and abuse and have the knowledge and confidence to take appropriate action.

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