UN disappointed in Key’s child abuse stance

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The United Nations child advocacy group says it is disappointed Prime Minister John Key isn’t backing a cross-party plan to tackle abuse.

Last week Social Development Minister Paula Bennett released a discussion paper – titled Every Child Thrives, Belongs, Achieves – which included suggestions such as mandatory reporting of abuse and giving priority treatment to younger families.

Labour deputy leader Annette King said rather than political posturing, a cross-party consensus was needed.

“It is time that the political divide was closed in terms of putting children first,” she said.

Mr Key this morning told TVNZ’s Breakfast he did not think it was an issue where parties could agree because of the wide-ranging funding decisions involved.

“I think that’s tricky because ultimately it’s about spending decisions across a whole lot of different areas that you need to consider.”

Mr Key said while all parties agreed abuse rates were too high there was no silver bullet and that was why the Government put the green paper out there for discussion.

“Ultimately, parties are going to have to go and campaign on what they believe is the right solution to those problems.”

United Nation Children’s Fund (Unicef) national advocacy manager Barbara Lambourn said it was disappointing Mr Key was not supporting the call for a bi-partisan approach.

“Making children’s issues a political football with arguments about which party will claim to have the solution is not what New Zealanders need to hear,” Ms Lambourn said.

“It’s clear from all the information we have about the conditions in which child abuse can thrive, that government and community agencies need to work more closely to achieve results.

“We’d like to see that reflected by politicians, the people who make the big calls, working together to make sure that any plan for children is agreed by consensus, properly resourced and sustainable for the long term,” Ms Lambourn said.

Ms King said it was a blow to hear Mr Key dismiss a cooperative approach.

“If he is not prepared to take the advice of another political party, then I am asking him to listen to the growing chorus of parents,experts and practitioners in the field of child development and welfare,” she said.

“They are telling us – the politicians – to get over ourselves and stop the bickering.

“They are saying loud and clear that New Zealand needs a long-term solution to the problems of child abuse and children’s underachievement – and that requires the whole country to work together.”

Last week’s green paper said two children were physically, sexually or emotionally abused every hour, with 21,000 cases of abuse and neglect in 2009/10, and 13,315 avoidable hospital admissions the previous year.

More than 47,000 children under the age of 16 lived with a victim of family violence in 2010, while 15 percent of children under 18 years needed support and intervention at any one time.

Of those, 15 percent were children who were significantly more at risk of poor life outcomes such as learning and behavioural difficulties, mental and physical health problems, alcohol and drug dependency, criminal activity, imprisonment, poor education achievement and employability.

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