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Kiwis getting better at reporting child abuse - PM

Published: 9:12AM Monday June 17, 2013 Source: ONE News

The Prime Minister is optimistic that a shocking jump in the number of child abuse cases is because the country is getting better at reporting them.

Information released to ONE News shows rates of child abuse have risen by 32% over the last five years, with some children being abused while in state care.

More than 21,000 children were victims of child abuse last year.

Around 4000 of them were taken from their families and put into Child, Youth and Family care homes. But it was in these supposedly "safe homes" that at least 23 vulnerable children were further abused.

"I suspect the numbers are greater in part because as a country we are getting better at reporting them," John Key told TV ONE's Breakfast today.

He also highlighted that most foster parents "do a fantastic job" caring for children.

"Any number [of abuse cases] above zero is unacceptable, but there were about 6000 children who were in Child Youth and Family care ... last year of which there were 23 cases of abuse."

To prevent cases of abuse in CYF care, District Judge Carolyn Henwood has suggested an independent monitoring organisation which would assign an appointee for each child in state care.

Key said Judge Henwood's suggestions could not be completely dismissed but that he didn't think any one particular initiative would work on its own.

"What Paula [Bennett] is working on ... is a series of different initiatives. I don't think any one particular one will work.

"What is true is that a child that's in foster care should have a visit every eight weeks and I don't think the minister can absolutely guarantee they are being seen every eight weeks so there is room for improvement."

"The bottom line is as a country our most important resource is our young people and every youngster deserves to be in a loving nurturing environment and they need to know they can rely on the parent or caregiver that's there not become a victim of the circumstances they're in," Key said.

Advocacy group Child Matters agrees Judge Henwood's suggestion would be a step in the right direction.

"Somebody who is there for the child, the child can trust, the child can talk to, who will listen to the child's concerns and then maybe advocate on their behalf," chief executive Anthea Simcock said today.

"Any measure that we can put in place that tries to help the children not have to go through those abusive situations is going to be something important," she told Breakfast.

Simcock said children who are abused while in care often take from it that they cannot trust adults, or that abuse if just part of life.

"And that's just not fair on these children."

The high number of child abuse cases was "a very sad indictment on what's going on in New Zealand", said Simcock. However, she shared Key's optimism that the figures indicated more abused children were being brought to attention as opposed to many more children being abused.

The Government has committed more than $16 million towards various initiatives to combat child abuse.