| Latest Political News | Thursday October 11 2012 6:17
Paula Bennett says there's no need for children living in poverty to be included in the database for at-risk children.
The Social Development Minister releases her White Paper on Vulnerable Children this morning.
Critics of the paper say it's an insult to those who put in submissions, that poverty isn't included.
The paper says there's no need to legislate for mandatory reporting of abuse because New Zealand already has high levels of notification.
It's also suggesting a Vulnerable Kids Information System be set up to draw together information on the most vulnerable children from Government agencies and frontline professionals.
Paula Bennett says the White Paper has a specific purpose.
"Actually poverty does not cause or excuse child abuse and this work on vulnerable children was always about our most vulnerable, those that have been seriously abused and neglected and getting ahead of that for those that we can."
Ms Bennett says mandatory reporting of child abuse has been left out to avoid people incorrectly reporting what they consider to be abuse.
"So we're going to up-skill professionals so they can really identify the signs of abuse and neglect and then we are going to put in a code of practice that shows them how to report and what that threshold is.
"It's putting such a low threshold on, that we're actually dealing with multitude of notifications which are unnecessary. We want to concentrate on those children that need it most."
She says the national database will put all the pieces together, allowing agencies to see if anyone else has picked up on warning signs.
Jigsaw’s co-chief executive Sally Christie says it’s pleasing to see better information sharing on the Government’s agenda.
She says the national database will ensure at-risk children don't slip through the net.
The organisation's pleased there'll be comprehensive training for teachers and doctors to correctly recognise the signs of abuse and neglect and know what action to take.
But Mike O'Brien from the Child Poverty Action Group is less than impressed.
"It's a very poorly thought out piece of work. It's an insult to the people who took the time to make submissions and take up the issues and think about the issues and contribute to the green paper."
Mr O'Brien says the paper totally ignores the impact of poverty on vulnerable children and that the document comes up short.
"We know that children are vulnerable on a whole host of reasons and it's tragic and ironic when there's been all the focus on vulnerability and risks that there are for children living in poverty over the last months and months, that the word 'poverty' doesn't even appear in the document."
Primary teachers believe the Government's missed the mark.
The White Paper for Vulnerable Children says New Zealand already has high levels of notification and that the vast number of children who are seriously abused are already known to Government agencies.
It recommends the issue not be set in law.
But Ian Leckie from the NZEI disagrees:
"Reporting it isn't necessarily going to stop it, however for the safety of the child if there is a concern, if there is a suspicion, if there is evidence, it should be mandatory that schools must report it."
The paper states that the Government won't be legislating for it because New Zealand already has high rates of notification.
Mr Leckie says that's disappointing.
"This is not about stopping abuse, this is about reporting abuse and I think with the reporting mechanisms, here was an opportunity to firm them up and that opportunity has been put aside, so the report shows to me there's evidence of some conflict of interest."
Sue Bradford, social issues advocate and former Green MP, says there's nothing in the document that breaks new ground.
"I can't see anything here that will put in more education and support for parents. No clarity around what the Government actually means by this term 'vulnerable children', I would have hoped for more, especially given the huge public interest in this."
Ms Bradford says the report will create more work without dealing with the issues.