Recommendations in the Government Green Paper on vulnerable children will not address the root causes of child abuse and neglect, the Green Party said today.
"Child abuse and neglect is more likely to occur in households living in poverty and deprivation. We need to get serious about child abuse, but we need to look at what's behind it," Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said.
The Government's Green Paper on Vulnerable Children was released in Auckland today. It contains controversial suggestions for addressing child abuse, including prioritising social services for young children and families over older children and individuals, and mandatory reporting of child abuse.
Mrs Turei said the Government should not contemplate trading the needs of some vulnerable people off against others.
"That is just a recipe for shifting the problem," Mrs Turei said.
"Mandatory reporting is not a solution either. It makes no difference in acute cases, as health professionals already have good practice guidelines for reporting. What it does is frighten vulnerable families from accessing support.
"Until we adequately address poverty and deprivation, we won't get far in stopping abuse and neglect."
Mrs Turei said the extent of the child poverty problem had been highlighted this week in reports of tens of thousands of children going to school without breakfast every day.
"As many as one quarter of all New Zealand children are growing up in poverty. This makes them vulnerable to abuse and neglect, and increases the likelihood of poor education and health outcomes. It is totally unacceptable," Mrs Turei said.
She said the Government's approach - as shown in the Green Paper and its Welfare Working Group recommendations - was to lay the responsibility for vulnerable children at the feet of individual families and punish those who were unable to address it on their own.
"What we actually need is big-picture approach to the problem of vulnerable children that addresses the real causes - inadequate incomes, low wages, and a lack of routes out of poverty."
The Green Party has put together a plan to bring 100,000 children out of poverty by 2014.
"This goal is bold and ambitious, but it is also achievable and affordable," Mrs Turei said.
"The Green Party is ready to address the big picture causes of child poverty and invest in our kids so that every child gets the start in life they deserve.
"That we continue to allow one quarter of our kids to languish in poverty when the solutions are achievable and affordable is simply not on."
Mrs Turei will release the Green Party's plan to bring 100,000 children out of poverty by 2014 on Wednesday 3 August.