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NZ still failing children - UN report

Thursday 5 Dec 2013 7:39 a.m.

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New Zealand's progress in protecting the rights of children has been slated for not matching the country's rhetoric on human rights in a United Nations report.

The Unicef report, Kids Missing Out, says that 20 years after New Zealand ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, there are still an estimated 270,000 children living in poverty.

"Which, from the child's point of view, means things like not being able to have friends to a birthday party, go to the doctor or get medicine, go on school trips or taking part in music, dance, art, kapa haka and sport," the report says.

"There have also been significant increases in hospital admissions for children suffering from poverty-related conditions especially rheumatic fever and skin conditions, and high rates of child maltreatment which are known to be associated with poverty."

The report said New Zealand was committed to upholding human rights but still allowed situations to arise where children are hurt at work, detained in police cells and tried in the adult justice system.

It urged the government to invoke a permanent mechanism to facilitate and coordinate the convention, and to identify areas where children's rights are not being met.

It specifically wanted an overhaul of adoption laws, which were drawn up in the 1950s, and the upper age of the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act to be raised to 18 years.

Unicef NZ executive director Dennis McKinlay says there have been some advances, such as making smacking illegal, but overall progress had been "patchy and too slow".

In some instances there has actually been regression in protecting children's rights, such as:

* In 2010 New Zealand lowered the age of prosecution and allowed criminal proceedings to be brought against some 12 and 13 year olds

* Changes to bail laws this year give the police a new power to arrest children aged 10-16 years for breach of bail.


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