Address underlying causes of child neglect and abuse to keep children safe

The Child Poverty Action Group says the Government must address the underlying causes of child abuse and neglect to keep children safe in our communities.

A 2013 CPAG report - Child Abuse: What role does poverty play? identified poverty as a key risk factor for child neglect and maltreatment.

CPAG welcomed the Office of the Children’s Commissioner's monitoring report on CYFS - State of Care - and supports its recommendations to address the serious issues facing New Zealand’s care and protection system.

Associate Professor Michael O’Brien said, "There needs to be an urgent focus on improving CYF’s systems to achieve better outcomes for children in State care. However, the Government must also work to protect children and families so they do not need this type of crisis intervention. Child-centred policies would make a tangible difference for children by ensuring they and their families have adequate income, healthy and affordable housing, and quality education and health services."

CPAG said the government had chosen to introduce policies such as punitive welfare reform that cuts benefits to struggling parents of children where strict criteria are not met, rather than providing a decent social security safety net so that even the most disadvantaged children can thrive and reach their potential.

Mike O’Brien said, "As a nation we can choose to dramatically reduce poverty and by doing so lessen the risk to children. Families living in poverty face enormous stresses. Central and local government can do a great deal to minimise those stresses through sound, child centred policy. Quality social services are important for vulnerable children but cannot fix the harm which comes from failing to tackle child poverty. "