Last year the Government issued a Green Paper seeking public feedback on a broad range of solutions to help protect vulnerable children. We received 9985 submissions from New Zealanders, including more than 2000 from children.
These formed the basis for the White Paper for Vulnerable Children, the most significant advancement in child protection this country has seen. The White Paper was released last month and included a Children’s Action Plan of 30 new initiatives.
Too many New Zealand children are seriously abused and neglected. Last year there were 21,000 substantiated cases of abuse and neglect of children, a number that has encouragingly come down recently but there is more work to do. What should horrify all of us the most is the number of children who have died, often at the hands of the people who should protect them. More than 50 children have died in the past five years because of extreme abuse.
Our plan is targeting the 20,000 - 30,000 of our most vulnerable children.
A new Child Protect Line will triage calls appropriately because many people are concerned about children but don’t want to call Child, Youth and Family. This new line will be the first point of contact and ensure the right response.
And a Vulnerable Kid’s Information System will be set up to hold information on children in one place. It will be accessible to relevant professionals who work with children.
Other initiatives in the Children’s Action Plan include:
• Contracting non-government organisations to offer on-going support to families who take in a child.
• Expanding the number of specialist trained caregivers for high-needs and high-risk teens.
• Extra financial help to grandparents raising grandchildren and kin carers.
So many of you made a submission on the Green Paper. Now I’d like to hear what you think about the Children’s Action Plan. I’m holding a public meeting to discuss the plan on Tuesday 20th November at 5.30pm at the Age Concern Otago meeting room, 9 The Octagon. I do look forward to seeing you there and hearing your thoughts.