More than 10,000 Kiwi children were recorded as being abused last year – something the Children’s Commissioner has labelled New Zealand’s “enduring shame”.

Figures released under the Official Information Act show that between its creation in April 2017 and March 2018, Oranga Tamariki recorded 13,966 substantive findings of abuse.

Those numbers were made up of 11,519 individual children – with some young people having more than one incident of proven abuse against them.

Published in Stuff

While the figures capture cases of abuse proven between April 2017 to March 2018, some of those incidents could have occurred prior to that period.

“It is too many. The numbers are alarming. I am saddened, but they do not surprise me,” Children’s Minister Tracey Martin said.

“I think Oranga Tamariki are coping. Am I happy with their work load? No, I am not. Are we hiring more social workers? Yes, we are. It is certainly not a done deal.”

While the numbers remained high, they had decreased since the 2016 financial year where 14,802 substantive findings of abuse were recorded.

In the same period, more than 7000 children were recorded as being emotionally abused, more than 1000 as being sexually abused and more than 3000 as being neglected.

Martin told Stuff reducing the number of children abused was an obvious priority.

“I would love to see a reduction of a lot more. But one agency can’t do that. We as a country have got to fix this.”

Almost 90,000 reports of concern from the public, police and other agencies were recorded with Oranga Tamariki between April 2017 and March 2018.

Out of the overall reports of concern, 30,000 were filed by police. More than 12,000 of those cases required further action.

In a statement from Oranga Tamariki, an official explained not all reports of concern involved a child being removed from thier home.

“In these circumstances we will work with the tamariki, their families and others involved with the child to develop and monitor an action plan. Many of the findings relate to events prior to the child coming to our attention and do not require action where the child is already safe.”

Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft said the numbers were a sad insight.

“It presents a national and enduring shame that we should never accept in New Zealand, we are better than that. It is profoundly unacceptable.

“It is impossible not to see abuse and neglect of children in the wider context of our high rates of inter family violence, of bullying, of inadequate and substandard housing. All of that causes real stress, almost a toxic stress.”

Focusing on early intervention and working with at risk families was the key to reducing the numbers of those abused, Becroft said.

He also pointed out the expert advisory panel whose findings formed the basis for the rebuild of the state care system said it would take five years for the agency to find its feet.

“I am optimistic about the end product which was set out in the new legislation. We are still one year into a five year process of as it were, turning the aircraft carrier around which was Child, Youth and Family Services. ”

“This is a once in a life time opportunity… we won’t get a second chance. With children we have to get it right.”

By Tommy Livingston
Published in Stuff
16 August 2018