White Paper a Lost Opportunity to Improve Life for All NZ Children

Thursday 11 October 2012, 11:54AM
By UNICEF New Zealand

The White Paper for Vulnerable Children, released today, will improve systems and processes for responding to child abuse, but needed to go much further to address the needs of thousands more vulnerable children, says UNICEF NZ (UN Children’s Fund)

“The White Paper for Vulnerable Children, aims to improve systems and practices responding to child abuse and that’s a very encouraging sign,” said Barbara Lambourn, National Advocacy Manager at UNICEF NZ.

“The initiatives proposed will create wider awareness, and enable better training and sharing of information. These are important moves and hopefully will make a difference to our appalling rate of child abuse, and the attitudes that allow it to continue.

“We hope that this White Paper signals the start of some really positive political attention, and action, to help children suffering abuse and maltreatment.

“However we can’t ignore that an important opportunity has been missed to address the situation for thousands more vulnerable children. This means children living in severe and persistent poverty, children lacking access to health care, children living in overcrowded conditions in poor housing, and children with poor nutrition. Poverty is a factor in neglect, poor health and lack of opportunity - the White Paper does not offer solutions to plan better outcomes for these children,” said Ms Lambourn.

In July 2012 UNICEF NZ circulated a Briefing Paper (What Will it Take), endorsed by many non government organisations, that responded to the Government’s call for ideas to help all children in New Zealand to thrive, achieve and belong.  The Paper called for an Action Plan that went beyond a narrow definition of vulnerability and included all children. It stated that preventing child abuse through investing in more support for families and communities, increased emphasis on eliminating violence in families, and addressing inequities (especially child poverty) were needed to make a real difference to the situation for children in New Zealand.

The 70+ organisations which supported UNICEF’s position in the Briefing Paper, (including Plunket, Barnardos, Salvation Army, Paediatric Society  and IHC), agreed that all children are vulnerable to some extent and that a far wider view needs to be taken to realise the vision promoted by the Government for all children to thrive, belong and achieve.

“It seems that the White Paper has not given attention to the weight of these submissions and has focussed solely on the extreme and visible end of the abuse spectrum,” said Ms Lambourn.

“Children deserve the very best start in life that we can give them. There’s no mention in the White Paper about resourcing for the initiatives and that is a concern. We want to be assured that the universal services underpinning child wellbeing now are continued and that Government will show the leadership and courage needed to protect over 200,000 children at risk through living in poor, unhealthy and deprived families and communities.

“We are disappointed that the White Paper does not signal a strong and determined policy direction to address prevention of child abuse and improve the situation for each and every child in the country,” said Ms Lambourn.