Call for inquiry into child abuse

Paula Bennett, Minister for Social Development and Employment
Paula Bennett, Minister for Social Development and Employment
A family welfare lobby group wants a Royal Commission of Inquiry into child abuse and says an investigation announced yesterday into a single case doesn't go far enough.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has ordered an independent inquiry into the way welfare agencies handled the case of a nine-year-old West Auckland girl, whose parents are facing 36 charges involving abuse and neglect.

The girl's suffering was widely reported late last year and because of the court action Ms Bennett couldn't discuss details.

But she told reporters it was one of the worst cases she had encountered and the girl suffered "appalling" abuse despite 12 different agencies being involved with the family.

She wants to know why they failed to protect the girl and whether they shared information on the case in the right way.

"No one can say things went right, because they've gone horribly wrong," she said.

Former Ombudsman Mel Smith will lead the inquiry and deliver a report by the end of March.

The lobby group Family First said last night there should be a Royal Commission of Inquiry into family breakdown, family violence and child abuse.

"Why focus on one horrendous case when there have been 26 deaths in the past three-and-a-half years, and many more children abused almost to death," said national director Bob McCoskrie.

"The plethora of so-called 'experts' simply aren't solving the problem."

Mr McCoskrie said the fact that the girl's family had been involved with so many agencies was proof that the `bottom of the cliff' approach wasn't working.

"We must look at the root cause of child abuse -- why is it happening in the first place?" he said.

"Children can never be safe until we are honest enough as a country to identify and tackle the real causes."

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