Child abuse statistics and policy change

Tue 27 Jan 2015

The Government has released child abuse statistics for the year ending June 2014, reporting a decrease of 12% (2,306 children) of substantiated ...

The Government has released child abuse statistics for the year ending June 2014, reporting a decrease of 12% (2,306 children) of substantiated abuse from the previous year. 

The Ministry of Social Development reports, "During the year to June 2014, 16,289 children had 19,623 findings of abuse substantiated compared to 18,595 children with 22,984 findings of abuse in the previous year."

The majority of the drop was in the number of substantiated cases of emotional and sexual abuse: "In 2014, there were 9,499 children who were emotionally abused, 3,178 children who were physically abused and 1,294 children who were sexually abused.  In 2013 the corresponding figures were 11,386 children emotionally abused, 3,181 physically abused and 1,423 sexually abused."

Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley said "Let there be no doubt that our child abuse figures remain appallingly high but it is pleasing to see the numbers going down for the first time in 10 years ... Good progress is being achieved in implementing the Children’s Action Plan. With 30 specific measures designed to prevent abuse and neglect, it will make a real difference in reducing child abuse in this country."

However, Children's Commissioner Russell Wills said in the media that while the decrease was encouraging, it coincided with a new strategy where children witness domestic violence. This sees doctors or police directly refer to a group that specialises in preventing domestic violence, rather than refer to Child, Youth and Family (CYF), accounting for the drop in referrals to CYF.

The Clearinghouse has also highlighted that administrative data from agencies such as Child, Youth and Family can be affected by changes in organisations’ policies and procedures and as a result, cannot be considered a reliable source of data for monitoring trends in family violence in the community over time. For further information, see:

Gulliver, P., & Fanslow, J. (2013). Family violence indicators: Can administrative data sets be used to measure trends in family violence in New Zealand? Wellington: SuPERU


Gulliver, P., Fanslow, J. (2012). Measurement of family violence at a population level: What might be needed to develop reliable and valid family violence indicators? Auckland, New Zealand: New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse, The University of Auckland.

For more statistics, see our Statistics page.


Minister Tolley is travelling to the UK and Norway in January 2015 to view world-leading child protection models and Norwegian aftercare services provided to transition children out of state care.


Drop in Child Abuse Stats Not Reliable, Scoop: NZ First, 15.03.2015

Agencies doubt abuse figures, Bay of Plenty Times, 06.03.2015

Still cause for alarm despite decrease in child abuse, Stuff, 27.01.2015

Minister to visit the UK and Norway, Beehive, 27.01.2015

Reports of child abuse fall, Radio New Zealand, 23.01.2015

Abuse figures may mislead - expert, Radio New Zealand, 23.01.2015

Child abuse down by 12 percent but still way too high, Beehive, 22.01.2015

Drop in child-abuse cases welcomed, Timaru Herald, 23.01.2015

Editorial: Community needs to act over high incidence of child abuse here, Gisborne Herald, 23.01.2015

Image: iStock