Vulnerable children will need more than a database to escape at-risk situations, a Rotorua principal says.
Westbrook Primary School principal Colin Watkins said the Government's White Paper on vulnerable children, published yesterday, missed the mark in terms of tackling child abuse.
"Until we can sit down and look at it in practical terms and look at how we can use legislation to help families that need support, not just kids ... it's not going to solve anything."
Mr Watkins was referring to one of the key initiatives announced in the paper - a database designed to identify the country's most vulnerable children and families. Community organisations, teachers, doctors and Child, Youth and Family workers would have access to the database registering 20,000-30,000 vulnerable individuals.
Users will have access to view a child's case and compare their notes to those of other professionals working with that child.
"To suggest for a single moment that the children living below the poverty line in New Zealand are the most vulnerable to abuse is crap.
"There are just as many white, middle-class New Zealanders abusing their kids as there are under-the-bread-line beneficiaries," he said.
"There's a bigger picture which has gone over their heads and it's about families."
The database is part of a raft of legal reforms planned to address child cruelty over the next five years. Plans to red-flag child abusers were included and measures such as protection orders for potential abusers and alerts for high-risk adults who moved into homes with children were out-lined. However, the initiatives stopped short of mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse cases.
It was developed by the University of Auckland, which assessed 52,000 children over a five-year period whose parent or parents were on a benefit.
Other Rotorua leaders supported the move.
Rotorua MP Todd McClay said the White Paper would lay the pathway for how child protection systems would be reformed.
"Where children are subject to harm or living in unsafe conditions, early intervention is imperative. In Rotorua there is much more we must do to protect those who are being harmed."
Rotorua district councillor and the former head of Women's Refuge New Zealand, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait supported the White Paper.
"I would like every political party to support this. If we don't act now then we can kiss goodbye to a non-violent future for our children for another 50 years."
Rotorua Mayor Kevin Winters hadn't been able to study the White Paper in detail but was pleased the wellbeing of at-risk children would be under constant review.
"However, all of us as citizens ... must continue to play a part. We share the responsibility for the welfare of our children with government agencies."
New Zealand Medical Association chair Dr Paul Ockelford said information sharing should detect those at risk earlier.
The 'White Paper' plan:
- Database of 30,000 vulnerable children and families. Available to teachers, social workers and health workers.
- Child abusers: Protection orders preventing them from accessing children. Alerts across agencies if potential abusers move into a home with a child.
- Local Children's Teams which can award contracts for services targeting children.
- Extra training for people working with children to assist in identifying vulnerable children.
- Legislation formalising screening process of people who work with children.
- Register of pre-approved iwi caregivers who can take in children of the same tribe removed from their homes.
- Added financial assistance for grandparents raising mokopuna and other next-of-kin carers. There's a bigger picture which has gone over their heads and it's about families.Principal Colin Watkins