Manukau Courier : January 25th 2011
6 MANUKAU COURIER, JANUARY 25, 2011 OPINION Visit Gisborne, the first place in the world to see the sun and enjoy a unique New Zealand and Maori performing experience. Looking for an international Festival in the perfect holiday destination? Head to Gisborne to Wai O Hika Estate and enjoy the 20th international Kapa Haka Festival. The natural outdoor amphitheatre is the perfect backdrop to watch four days of world class Maori performing arts excellence, experience a selection of local and national artisan and indigenous foods, and enjoy shopping for unique New Zealand and Maori gifts, clothing and crafts. 17--20 February 2011 Te Matatini o te Ra 2011 Wai O Hika Estate, 75 Waimata Valley Road, Gisborne Four-day or single day tickets available from TicketDirect Memo Paula: Give Lord Laming a call The government was justifiably quick setting up a commission of inquiry to examine cause, effect and necessary changes over the Pike River mine disaster and the 29 who died. In the past decade, nearly four times that number of New Zealand children have died through violence and neglect, And as a community we ve failed to prevent what has become a shocking annual death toll. The planned inquiry into the apparent failure of essential child protection workers to detect appal- ling abuse of yet another nine-year- old Auckland girl should answer specific problems about this case. But it s not enough. Several years ago I urged that New Zealand should call in a British expert, Lord Laming, to assess and recommend what we should do with a faulty child protec- tion system which clearly isn t working. Look at his record and see how his career matches our urgent needs. The murder of eight-year-old Vic- toria Climbie ´ in London in February 2000 prompted the most extensive inquiry into the failings of the child protection system in British history. The West African girl was starved and tortured to death by her great- aunt and the woman s boyfriend. Beaten with coat hangers and bicycle chains and bound naked, she was kept prisoner in a freezing bathroom in a squalid inner-city flat in London. She weighed just 24kg (3st 10lb) and was found to have 128 injuries. She died despite being known to four London boroughs, two hospitals, two police child protection teams and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Chil- dren. The British government ordered an inquiry into Victoria s death involving the role of social services, the National Health Services and the police. It was headed by the former chief inspector of social services, Lord Herbert Laming, who is now in his mid-70s. He pledged that Victoria s suf- fering would mark an enduring turning point in ensuring proper protection of children in this country . The 18-month inquiry became the most extensive investigation into the child protection system in British history, costing $3.8 million and hearing from 158 witnesses and 121 child protection experts. The inquiry uncovered that child protection staff missed at least 12 chances to save Victoria. And that health, police, housing charities and social services failed to work together effectively to protect the girl. It also exposed a complete break- down in the multi-agency child pro- tection system. Lord Laming s final report conclu- ded that the child protection system failed because of a lamentable lack of basic good practice by frontline staff and, most significantly, senior managers failing to take respons- ibility for the failings of their organ- isations. The report made 108 recommen- dations. Its main proposals aimed at holding those in senior positions accountable, from government ministers down to local authority chief executives. At the national level it proposed a new agency for children and famil- ies, whose chief executive would be like a children s commissioner, to advise the government on the impact of proposed policies and scrutinise legislation as well as reviewing serious child abuse cases. Other major recommendations included setting up a national database recording every contact made by a child under 16 with the police, health and local authority services to prevent them from get- ting lost in the system. The first Children s Minister Margaret Hodge was appointed -- but not at Cabinet level as Lord Laming proposed. A green paper, Every Child Matters, taking forward the government s plans was published in September 2003. This was fol- lowed by the Children Act 2004 which allows the establishment of children s trusts and the creation of a national child database, made up of local information hubs in 150 local authorities. Progress but the latest British child safeguarding report, based on inspections of social services, health, education and youth justice, found serious failings remained in child protection agencies with many agencies working with children often unclear about how to recog- nise signs of abuse or neglect, or how to act on them Sound familiar? Eight years after the Victoria Climbie ´ death Baby P, a 17-month- old boy, died in the same health area of London as her. He suffered more than 50 injuries over an eight- month period, during which time he was seen 60 times by children s services and health professionals. Lord Laming s review of children s services as a result of Baby P s death concluded that many recommendations after Victoria s death in 2000 had not been properly implemented. Child protection issues in England had not had the priority they deserved . Other findings included: An over- emphasis on process and targets resulted in a loss of confidence among overstretched and under- trained surgery and treatment. Progress was being hampered by the lack of a centralised com- puter system and an over- complicated . . . tick-box assessment and recording system . There was a lack of communication and working between agencies. A lack of funding made social and child protection work a Cinderella service . Sound familiar? I believe the time is long, long overdue for similar sweeping action in New Zealand. How many more of our children have to face these horrors before we take respons- ibility and action? When Minister of Social Develop- ment Paula Bennett set up a high- level inquiry into the latest case, she said: Every available resource was provided, including some of our most experienced and trusted inter- vention models for at-risk families, yet a child suffered appalling abuse and I want to know why. So do people like me, Paula, who have campaigned for decades to stop New Zealand s shocking record of child cruelty and death. The continuing deaths and injur- ies suggest very strongly that ter- rible evidence has been consistently ignored in the past or there s been failure to find the causes and reform obviously faulty systems. This time let s get it right and stop this slaughter which sends an average of 10 New Zealand children to an early grave each year while many more live a childhood of terror and neglect. Why not Lord Laming? He s been the man in those two similar investigations in Britain -- and has an open mind and positive approach. How positive? Well, when his sec- ond report was published after the Baby P death, he said: Just do it! That s the approach we need. Retired ombudsman Mel Smith, who is making the inquiry for Paula Bennett, is expected to solve the problem and report within months, Without being critical of him, he only has the time and scope to rec- ommend a bandaid. Sticking plaster has been tried before -- and it s failed miserably. The critical need now is for major surgery and treatment to save young lives.
January 21st 2010
January 27th 2011