In 'da House | Issue 18

In 'da House | Issue 18

Child Abuse - Always Funny

Last Monday was the first day back after a two-week Parliamentary recess. As Critic readers will know, I spent the recess watching the same movie over and over again in different parts of the country. I can’t complain, however, because this was entirely self-inflicted, and very much for a good cause (ending child poverty).

Perhaps because of all that talk of children, I arrived back at Parliament fired up and ready to stand up for our kids in the House.

On Tuesday, I got to ask Social Development Minister Paula Bennett about the number of children who were abused while in CYFS care in the year from July 2010 to June 2011.

As the release of the Coroner’s findings about the horrific deaths of Chris and Cru Kahui last week reminded us, we have a serious problem of child abuse and neglect in New Zealand, and no children are more vulnerable than those who have already been abused or identified as at risk of abuse and removed into CYFS care.

The fact that in one year alone 71 children were abused while in the care of the state is totally unacceptable, especially when you consider that 30 of those were abused by their CYFS-approved caregiver.

This raises some serious questions about CYFS’ vetting processes, but more fundamentally, it is concerning that the only reason we know about this abuse is because some poor social worker spent seven weeks trawling through case files at different CYFS offices to put the information together.

Unbelievably, CYFS collects no central data about abuse of children while in care, and has no immediate plans to do so. I was pleased to be able to highlight this in the House to a Minister, who admitted that this situation was less than ideal.

The next day, I proposed an amendment to the Government’s welfare reform legislation that would have given WINZ the flexibility not to cut the benefits of young parents if they were worried that doing so would deprive their children of food or shelter. I naïvely thought this might attract Government support, at least if you believe all their rhetoric about improving outcomes for vulnerable children.

No such luck. Not satisfied with simply voting down the amendment, the Government chose to use their financial veto on the grounds that they’d already banked on the savings from cutting parents’ benefits, so they couldn’t afford to entertain an amendment that might prevent them from doing so. Yup, they’ve banked the kids’ lunch money already, and have effectively admitted that their welfare reforms will deprive kids of food and shelter.

All in all, not the best week for kids in the corridors of power.
This article first appeared in Issue 18, 2012.
Posted 2:15pm Sunday 29th July 2012 by Holly Walker.