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Legislation changes needed to prevent child abuse in communities

Below is a media release in regards to the
petition launched to strengthen the Children’s Act 2014 to make children safer

“It is time children are placed at the heart of legislation, if they are to be truly safe from abuse by adults in the community” said child safety advocate Willow Duffy.

Duffy heads child protection charity Safeguarding Children and is responding to the media story yesterday about a teenager who had been abused by their bowls coach. The coach was later welcomed back by the club, with the teenager feeling like she was the criminal.

“Once again, this terrible story shows that community organisations, clubs and groups are not where they should be in terms of safeguarding children from potential abuse.” said Duffy.  “After being allowed back to the bowling club, this perpetrator might have gone on to abuse more and more children, in effect with permission from the club, which I believe didn’t take the necessary precautions to protect their young members.”

As part of Child Protection Week in September this year, Safeguarding Children completed a nationwide survey of parents, and organisations who supervise children, about child safeguarding and protection. Participating organisations included sports clubs, schools, early childhood centres, church groups, scouts clubs and other community groups.

“The survey showed positive intentions of organisations to keep the children they are overseeing safe from potential abuse from people who work or volunteer for them, but many are falling short of doing it properly, in practice,” said Duffy. “The education sector and groups that receive government funding are the exceptions. This is because child protection policies are compulsory for those that receive government funding.”

“However, currently the Children’s Act 2014 only requires government funded organisations to have a child protection policy in place, and does not require volunteers working with young people to be appropriately vetted and checked. This is a significant risk for the country’s children and needs to change.”

Duffy noted the Safeguarding Children’s survey found that 40% of people working or volunteering for non-government funded organisations said they have not been police vetted or reference checked to assess their suitability to work with children. 29% have only undertaken a police background check and 8% have done nothing / state it is not required. Meanwhile, 38% of people working with children say they have undertaken child protection training.

“This falls short of what parents and caregivers expect,” Duffy said. “Understandably almost every parent and caregiver we surveyed thinks police vetting and reference checks should be a requirement at their club, and believe it is important for their club or group to have a child protection policy and have training.”

“It is clear that an organisation’s funding is sadly the driver for its safeguarding of children, so we need better legislation to cover others,” she said. “The weaknesses in the Children’s Act leave a vast number of children unprotected from harm, despite the level of trust their parents have in the community organisations their kids are involved with to keep them safe.”

“The Act has no carrot and no stick – organisations that don’t comply or have a poor child protection policy face little penalty,” said Duffy. “No one audits the quality of child protection policies, so it just becomes a tick box exercise.”

Duffy said that as well as a child protection policy, community organisations should have child safety procedures, a whistle blowing policy, safe recruitment policy, mandatory child protection training and a code of conduct. “None of this is required in the Act, but the inclusion of proper child safety measures have been put in the too hard basket. Government funded organisations show us it is not hard, and I strongly believe that children and parents deserve better, and staff and volunteers in our community deserve better,” she said.

Duffy has recently launched a petition to make the Children’s Act fit for purpose to protect children. It currently has 99 signatures.

“I encourage New Zealanders to sign the petition and help make New Zealand children safer.”

Safeguarding Children is a registered charity and a leading provider of child protection education and guidance in New Zealand.

With its vision that the children and young people of Aotearoa New Zealand are safe from abuse and neglect, Safeguarding Children works with a wide range of public and private organisations and businesses to create a child-safe culture.

On its 10-year anniversary, the charity launched Child Protection Week to raise awareness of child safety issues.

  • identity verification
  • police vetting
  • reference checks
  • employment verification checks
  • checks with professional registration bodies or licensing authorities
  • interviews
  • a risk assessment that considers the specific child safety related risk.

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Safeguarding Children

Charities Number: CC49059
NZBN: 9429043276134

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