Risk factors for child abuse also include overcrowded housing (living with non-family adults), frequent shifting (lack of connections in the community can lead to bullying by other children), patchy access to healthcare (sickness that leads to time off school), poor nutrition and neighbourhood factors such as access to alcohol. The ensuing two-volume White Paper and Children's Action Plan ignored all of these but for a few passing mentions: the scale of these problems in some children's lives was not acknowledged, and no measures were set out to tackle them.
Fast forward to 2013 and the much-awaited Vulnerable Children Bill (VCB) pops up in our inbox. It's a bit of a damp squib but that's a tale for another day. One of the issues this Bill and in fact almost all the public discussion on vulnerable children to date has ignored is the role of violence in children's lives. There is a very strong link between domestic violence and violence towards children, whereas the new Bill is largely focused on stranger danger outside the home.
Throughout the GP/WP/VCB process there has been a great deal of emphasis in making agencies work together: as the explanatory note to the VCB puts it, "shared responsibility, and co-ordinated and collaborative action across the government..." That's great. New Zealand boasts a string of reports going back to the Dark Ages about different agencies failing to pick up hideous cases of child abuse even though the information was there.
But wait! It would appear this new co-ordination and collaboration doesn't apply to the government itself. About the same time the Bill was released Tariana Turia announced the establishment of a new Expert Advisory Group on Family Violence. This group appears to run parallel to the Ministry of Social Development's Taskforce for Action on Violence Within Families . The Taskforce itself includes the heads of a number of state agencies (like the cross-departmental agency proposed in the Vulnerable Children Bill but far broader and more representative). According to a press release the EAG:
"is being formed to provide independent strategic advice to assist Government to determine key priority actions to address family violence in New Zealand.More "whole of government" rhetoric from a Minister who has been talking about it since 2002. But a closer look suggests the key strategic priority is to shuffle money around existing services ("duplication", "gaps").
A whole-of-government approach to family violence is vital and means we need to identify where there may be duplication of services or gaps in addressing family violence and ensure there are linkages with other strategic priorities."
|Collaborative action goes THBBPTT|