Social Welfare Minister Paula Bennet has ordered an independent inquiry into the serious abuse of a nine year-old girl.
She is to be congratulated for this urgent response to a report from Child, Youth and Family’s Chief Social Worker that found no single glaring failure on the part of any of the agencies involved with the child’s family.
That 12 agencies were involved shows there were serious problems in the family. That no-one from one of those 12 agencies was able to prevent or at least identify and stop the serious abuse is a symptom of an even more serious problem.
If there was no single glaring failure on the part of the agencies it might be argued that no-one in those agencies is at fault. But that shows there is something seriously wrong with their systems and procedures and somebody must be responsible for them.
Paula has given former Ombudsman Mel Smith who will lead the inquiry plenty of scope to determine what went wrong, why and what needs to change to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
1. Whether the multiple agencies and individuals involved in the family in the lead-up to her abuse took all appropriate actions to ensure her safety
2. If these individuals and agencies were sufficiently child-centred in their actions and approach to this case
3. Whether all these individuals and agencies collaborated effectively
4. Whether the individuals and agencies involved in the case shared information effectively or not? If not, why not? And did the individuals have a clear understanding of the law around information sharing?
5. If any changes to the processes and legislative framework are required to ensure open and appropriate information sharing about children judged to be at risk of child abuse or neglect.
6. Any other matters you might identify that you believe should be brought to my attention.
The most important of these might be number 6: any other matters that should be brought to the Minister’s attention.
This inquiry must ensure that even if no-one’s at fault for what happened in this case, someone is responsible to ensure no more children are let down by those in a position to help them.