Child Harm Prevention Orders off the table for now

  • Paula Bennett
Social Development

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the Government is putting on hold Child Harm Prevention Orders as part of the Vulnerable Children Bill.

 The Government has a wide range of initiatives that are already making a difference to the protection of children and more proposals that are soon to be implemented.

“I am absolutely committed to improving the lives of vulnerable children and this Government has made it a major priority to focus on these children,” says Mrs Bennett.

As part of that work, legislation supporting the Children’s Action Plan proposed the introduction of new Civil Orders that would impose conditions on people considered to be at high risk of abusing children whether they had been convicted or not.

“We’ve carefully considered submissions to the Select Committee on these Orders.  Given the range of other protective measures the Government is introducing, we believe we will achieve improved protection of children without these Orders.”

“I am reserving the right to revisit the need for such orders in the future.  They’re just off the table for now.

There are more than 30 initiatives in the Children’s Action Plan.

“I’m confident the full package, along with measures being introduced by my Ministerial colleagues, will make a significant difference to protecting vulnerable children.”

“The Government is exploring a range of other measures aimed at monitoring the small but significant group of adults who pose a high risk to children and are not covered by the Action Plan’s new initiatives.  These include widening Extended Supervision Orders, and developing a Sex Offenders Register.

I’m hopeful the Vulnerable Children Bill, due to be reported back to the House on 31 March 2014, will get the full support of all parties. 

“I’m satisfied that we can significantly strengthen protection of our children and young people from abuse without pursuing Child Harm Prevention orders at this stage,” said Mrs Bennett.

Fact Sheet

Government initiatives to protect vulnerable children

The Government has introduced or is working on a range of comprehensive measures to protect vulnerable adults and children from people who present a high risk of harming them.

The relevant Government initiatives that will help to protect vulnerable children include:

Sex Offender Register

Corrections and Police are leading work on introducing a Sex Offender register.  This will ensure Police and Corrections have accurate, up to date information for assessing and managing the risk to public safety.

Strengthening of the disciplinary framework for teachers

Under the Education Amendment Bill (No 2) the new Education Council and its disciplinary bodies will have a greater range of options for addressing serious misconduct by teachers.  Serious misconduct includes the physical, sexual or psychological abuse of a child or young person.

The Bill maintains the existing mandatory reporting requirements for teachers guilty of serious misconduct but increases the maximum fine for non-compliance from $5,000 to $25,000.

Enhancing Extended Supervision Orders (ESOs)

Work is underway to increase the period of time dangerous sex offenders can be covered by Extended Supervision Orders.  The Orders allow for released serious offenders to be actively monitored and supervised by Corrections under parole-like conditions.  It is intended that ESOs will be extended beyond their current 10 year time period, and include the management of high-risk sex offenders and very high-risk violent offenders. 

Public Protection Orders

The Public Safety (Public Protection Orders) Bill is currently being considered by the Justice and Electoral Committee.  This Bill proposes amendment to empower the High Court to issue a civil detention order to detain a person in a secure facility if, at the end of a finite prison sentence or when subject to the most intensive form of an extended supervision order, they pose a very high risk of imminent and serious sexual or violent reoffending.

Police Safety Orders

Police Safety Orders (PSOs) were introduced through the Domestic Violence Amendment Act 2009, which came into force in 2010.  A PSO is an on-the-spot order issued by a qualified constable where there are reasonable grounds to believe that family violence has occurred or may occur. The orders which can last up to five days, are aimed at protecting people at risk from violence, harassment or intimidation.

GPS tracking for child sex offenders

In 2012 the Government introduced 24-hour GPS monitoring to track the movements of high-risk offenders. The system allows the tracking of child sex offenders on extended supervision orders or on parole with special conditions.

Removal of parole eligibility

The Sentencing and Parole Reform Act 2010 removed peoples’ eligibility for parole for repeat serious violent offenders, and offenders who commit the worst murders.

Making it an offence for an adult not to take reasonable steps to protect a child

The Crimes Amendment Act (No 3) 2011, made it an offence for a person to stay silent when they know that a child or vulnerable adult in their household (or with whom they have frequent contact) is at risk of death, grievous bodily harm or sexual assault.  Failure to speak out and take reasonable steps to protect a child or vulnerable adult carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.

Children’s Action Plan

Measures being introduced under the Children’s Action Plan to provide greater oversight and protection of at risk children include.

  • A new Child Protect Line providing a single point of contact for all New Zealanders to report any concerns they have about children or young people.
  • Legislation requiring agencies working with children to have policies covering the identification and reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect.
  • A new system to find, assess, and connect vulnerable children to services earlier, and a Vulnerable Children's Information System to draw together information from government agencies and front line professionals about vulnerable children. The latter system will also enable the tracking of high risk adults.
  • New local Children's Teams bringing together frontline professionals working with children to protect vulnerable children and young people. These teams will ensure vulnerable children's needs are assessed, all parties required to address those needs are at the table, a single multi-agency plan for each vulnerable child is developed and implemented and a lead professional is assigned to see the plan through.
  • Supporting caregivers, including improving support to whanau and non-whānau caregivers by strengthening recruitment, approval, training monitoring and support processes.
  • A public awareness campaign targeted at involving all New Zealanders in promoting awareness and the safety of children. The initiative will communicate the consequences of not protecting children, increase the understanding of child abuse and neglect and the effect it has on a child's development, increase willingness, capability and the confidence of individuals and communities to take responsibility for responding to child abuse and neglect.
  • An action plan for the workforce in order to ensure that anyone working with children has consistent quality of practice, new standards and competencies.  Workers will be able to identify, assess, respond to and monitor vulnerable children.
  • New standard safety checks to help ensure children are safe with those that work with them.
  • New guardianship orders which allow the guardianship rights of parents to be limited if this is in the child’s best interests.  For example, the Court could decide which aspects of a child's life will be the responsibility of the caregiver they have been placed with and what aspects the birth parents have a say in.
  • Flagging and tracking of high risk offenders so that a person's status as a high risk adult would be flagged with other government agencies, for example Housing Corporation New Zealand, enabling situations of risk to children to identified and acted upon before further abuse occurs.