UNCROC publishes concluding observations on the rights of the child
Thu 13 Oct 2016
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) has recommended the New Zealand Government adopt urgent measures on: violence, ...
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) has recommended the New Zealand Government adopt urgent measures on: violence, abuse and neglect; children deprived of a family environment; standard of living; children belonging to minority or indigenous groups; child labour; and juvenile justice.
It also recommended the Government consider a different name for the proposed Ministry for Vulnerable Children and "avoid the categorization of children, in law and policy, which may lead to stigmatization" (para 7(b)).
UNCROC made its comments in its concluding observations on the fifth period report of New Zealand. The Committee considered the report at its meeting in Geneva on 15 and 16 September 2016 which was attended by a New Zealand delegation, including Social Development Minister Anne Tolley. A video recording of the UN session can be viewed online.
The Committee welcomed the progress achieved by New Zealand in various areas, including the ratification of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in 2011 as well as the adoption of the Vulnerable Children’s Act in 2014 and other institutional and policy measures related to children’s rights since its last review. It also welcomed the significant progress in reducing child mortality.
The Committee’s comments on violence against children are reproduced below:
"Violence, abuse and neglect
22. While welcoming the State party’s multiple efforts to address child abuse and neglect, the Committee remains seriously concerned about the:
(a) Incidents of violence, which can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of children in State care, including the use of restraints and deprivation of liberty in the form of Secure Care;
(b) Difficulties faced by child victims of abuse and neglect in State care to seek redress, including inadequate knowledge among children about complaints mechanisms and the insufficient support provided to child victims reporting incidents of abuse;
(c) Continuing prevalence of physical and psychological abuse and neglect, especially among Maori and Pasifika children and children with disabilities, and the lack of a comprehensive strategy against abuse and neglect to encompass all children in all settings;
(d) Enduring unavailability of comprehensive data on child abuse in all settings, including families, schools, and institutional care;
(e) Insufficient measures to assess the Vulnerable Children’s Plan, the Violence Intervention Programme, and the National Child Protection Alert System in combating child abuse and neglect;
(f) Insufficient resources available to front-line services, such as the Children’s Teams.
23. In the light of its general comment No. 13 (2011) on the right of the child to freedom from all forms of violence and taking note of target 16.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals on ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children, and recalling its previous recommendation (CRC/C/NZL/CO/3-4, para. 35), the Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Promptly take measures to eradicate the use of violence and abuse of children in State care, including in the form of restraints and detention, and ensure that all professionals and staff working with and for children are provided with the necessary training and supervision, and are subjected to the necessary background checks;
(b) Promptly investigate incidents of violence and abuse of children in State care, prosecute suspects and duly sanction perpetrators and ensure that child victims have access to child-friendly reporting channels, physical and psychological rehabilitation, and health services, including mental health services;
(c) Develop a comprehensive strategy to combat abuse and neglect encompassing all children in all settings, with particular attention to Maori and Pasifika children and children with disabilities;
(d) Establish a national database on all cases of violence against children in families, schools and institutional care, and undertake a comprehensive assessment of the extent, causes and nature of such violence;
(e) Regularly monitor and analyse the effectiveness of the Vulnerable Children’s Plan, the Violence Intervention Programme, and the National Child Protection Alert System and other policies and programmes against child abuse and neglect;
(f) Allocate sufficient human, technical and financial resources to Children’s Teams and other frontline services to adequately respond to reported cases of child abuse;
(g) Further strengthen awareness-raising and education programmes, including campaigns, to prevent and combat child abuse, with the involvement of children, with particular attention to Maori and Pasifika children and children with disabilities.
Sexual exploitation and abuse
24. While welcoming the development of a Child Sex Offender Register, the Committee recalls its previous recommendation (CRC/C/NZL/CO/3-4 of 2011, para. 52), raises attention to target 5.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals on eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private sphere, including sexual and other types of exploitation, and recommends that the State party:
(a) Intensify its efforts to combat sexual abuse of children and establish mechanisms, procedures and guidelines to ensure mandatory reporting of cases of child sexual abuse, with particular attention to ethnicity, gender and disability;
(b) Establish a comprehensive data system on incidents of sexual abuse of children in all settings, including in the family, in schools and in care institutions to develop appropriate institutional responses;
(c) Conduct awareness-raising activities to prevent sexual abuse, including incest, combat the stigmatization of victims of such abuse, and ensure accessible, confidential, child-friendly and effective reporting channels for such violations."
The Committee's comments on family environment and alternative care are reproduced below:
26. The Committee recalls its previous recommendation (CRC/C/NZL/CO/3-4, para. 32) and recommends that the State party intensify its efforts to render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities with timely responses at the local level, including services to parents who need counselling in child-rearing, services for the treatment of alcohol or drug-related problems, and, in the case of Maori and Pasifika populations, culturally appropriate services to enable them to fulfil their parental role.
Children deprived of a family environment
27. The Committee welcomes the reports of the Children’s Commissioner on the State of Care 2015 and 2016 and of the Modernising Child, Youth and Family Expert Panel, and the State Party’s commitment to respond to their recommendations. The Committee is however seriously concerned about:
(a) Deficiencies in the State party’s care system, including lack of consideration for the best interests of the child and for the views of the child regarding decisions directly affecting her or him; and lack of clarity regarding a child-centred approach leading to inconsistent practices towards children, in particular Maori children and children with disabilities;
(b) Enduring inadequate cultural capability of the State care system, despite recent efforts, which disproportionally impacts Maori families and children, who make up over half of the children in State care;
(c) Inadequate resources allocated to care placements, including insufficient case oversight and training for care personnel, and to caregivers, which hinders their recruitment, and hurdles faced by permanent caregivers to obtain special guardianship, which may negatively affect the child’s well-being and be contrary to his or her best interests;
(d) Insufficient data on children’s outcomes, including regarding education, health and well-being, while in care and after they leave;
(e) The State party’s intent to outsource some care services to private providers in the absence of appropriate accountability frameworks.
28. Drawing the State party’s attention to the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (General Assembly resolution 64/142, annex), the Committee urges the State party to:
(a) When reforming the care system, ensure that the best interests of the child are taken into account as a primary consideration in every case and that the child is heard in all matters affecting her or him; ensure a common understanding of a child-centred approach across the care system; and regularly monitor the implementation of the reform and its impact on children’s outcomes, with particular attention to Maori children and children with disabilities;
(b) Strengthen its efforts to improve the cultural capability of care and protection system and its engagement with Maori communities, the whanau (extended family), hapū (sub-tribal groupings) and iwi (tribal groups), including by implementing the recommendations of the Children’s Commissioner’s 2015 ‘State of Care’ report, with a view to addressing the overrepresentation of Maori children in State care;
(c) Allocate adequate human, technical and financial resources to care services, in particular care placement, case oversight and care givers and ensure that the child’s best interests are taken into account as a primary consideration in guardianship decisions;
(d) Improve the data collection on children’s outcomes, including regarding education, health and well-being, while they are in care and after they leave care, to adopt evidence-based approaches to improving the care and protection system;
(e) Ensure that any outsourcing to private care service providers is closely monitored for compliance with the provisions of the Convention;
(f) Ensure that the reform of Child, Youth and Family is supported by adequate human, technical, financial and organizational resources so that children’s rights are fully respected during the transition to the new operating model and afterwards."
The Minister responded with a statement:
Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa has published a brief overview of the UN Concluding Observations.