Tuesday, August 13, 2013

NZ needs to take responsibility for child abuse - Key - TVNZ

Published: 7:25AM Tuesday August 13, 2013 Source: ONE News

Proposed legislation targeting parents who seriously abuse or kill their children is the Government's way of taking responsibility for New Zealand's child abuse statistics, Prime Minister John Key says.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett this morning unveiled a raft of child abuse prevention measures which could ban some parents from being near children.

If police or Child, Youth and Family believe someone poses a threat to a child, High Court or District Court judges could impose a ban, similar to restraining orders in cases of domestic violence, preventing them from working, living and socialising with children.

Screening and vetting of every person in the Government Children's Workforce would also be introduced and people with serious convictions will be permanently restricted from working closely with children.

"Someone who has committed a serious offence should not be allowed near children," Ms Bennett said.

Mr Key said this afternoon the current status quo was unacceptable.

"We have a responsibility as a Government and a country to stand up for these children," Mr Key said.

"We know that our history in this area is not good."

The Attorney-General will have to look at whether the law is in breach of the Bill of Rights, the Prime Minister said.

Police, Justice and the Ministries of Health, Education and Development would have new, legislated responsibilities under the proposal.

Five Government departments would be accountable for protecting and improving children's lives.

Ms Bennett said people should not underestimate how effective this could be.

"It will have a direct impact on every one of those departments and policies will change."

She referred to the case of a nine-year-old who was seriously abused in west Auckland.

She said 25 agencies were involved in the case, and at least seven were Government agencies.

"If this law had existed, clear policies would've required frontline staff act differently by reporting abuse, taking action and focussing on the child."

The proposed legislation would also mean courts could define the guardianship rights of birth parents in extreme cases.

"This change is aimed at vexatious and abusive parents who threaten the stability of children with Home for Life caregivers."

Legislation will be introduced later this month and will be contained in an omnibus Bill, with two stand-alone Acts and amendments to several other acts.

The proposal is one of the measures outlined in the White Paper for Vulnerable Children released in October after four years of consultation with community groups and parents.

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