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MSD Fails to “Do Right” by Abuse Claimants.

Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on May 17, 2007

As posted on CYFSWATCH NZ

MSD Fails to “Do Right” by Abuse Claimants.
Friday, 11.05.2007, 11:22pm (GMT12)

Ministry Fails to “Do Right” by Abuse Claimants

MEDIA RELEASE

11 MAY 2007: For immediate release

Ministry Fails to “Do Right” by Social Welfare Abuse Claimants

About 500 people are bringing claims against the Ministry of Social Development for historic physical, sexual and psychological abuse that they suffered as children while they were in the care of the former Department of Social Welfare and Division of Child Welfare. The issue was canvassed on TV3 and Campbell Live last night, in response to a Ministry of Social Development media release stating that the Ministry were committed to working through issues raised by mass claims of historic abuse of children in State care.

The lawyer for the claimant group, Sonja Cooper, said: “These claimants, who were just children at the time, suffered severe physical, sexual and psychological abuse at the hands of staff members in Social Welfare institutions around the country. They were repeatedly molested, raped and beaten. Children were also locked in solitary confinement cells and forced to do extreme physical training as punishment for misdemeanours such as smoking, fighting or running away from the institutions”. Ms Cooper stated that the claims relate to children placed with foster parents and in State-run institutions, such as the Epuni Boys’ Home, Fareham House, Hokio Beach School and Kohitere Boys’ Training Centre in Levin. Most of those institutions have now been closed.

Ms Cooper first won a case against Social Welfare in the High Court in 2000. This was subsequently appealed to the Court of Appeal by the Crown. Despite the Court of Appeal’s affirmation in 2003 that Social Welfare was liable for abuse perpetrated on children in State care, no claims have been settled by the current Government. The Ministry of Social Development has stated that it intends to “do right” by each claimant. However, to date, each and every claim is being vigorously and ruthlessly dragged through the Courts, taking many years and costing millions of taxpayer dollars.

Although most claims related to abuse perpetrated in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Ms Cooper has a growing number of clients under the age of 26 years old who were beaten and sexually assaulted in Youth Justice programmes run by CYFS as late as 2003. Ms Cooper stated: “These claims are not simply about one or two incidents of abuse. They cover wide-spread, systemic abuse on children who were in State care. Worse, when physical or sexual abuse was discovered, we have evidence that in a number of cases it was covered up by senior managers of Social Welfare in order to protect the reputation of the Department”.

“We do not believe that the Court is the best forum in which to hear these claims and that an out of Court process is the only fair and just way to addressing these claims” Ms Cooper stated.

“We have made numerous attempts to settle these claims without going to Court or to the media” Ms Cooper said. “However, the time has now come to make these claims public. The Government has repeatedly failed to adequately address these claims and has instead ordered that all MPs stay silent on the issue. The State has produced a generation of damaged people who have a myriad of difficulties with drug and alcohol abuse, anger management problems and difficulties parenting their own children. This Government has made a commitment to stamping out child abuse.

It must lead by example and address this long history of abusive conduct towards children in State care”.

The first trial relating to physical and sexual abuse in Epuni Boys’ Home and Hokio Beach School in the mid-1970’s begins in June. There are currently 155 claims filed in the High Court against the former Department of Social Welfare, with several hundred yet to be filed. Ms Cooper stated: “This is the biggest litigation ever to be initiated in New Zealand. Our Court system cannot cope with this number of claims and taxpayers should not be burdened with the cost of a massive number of trials. We call on the Government to act, and quickly”.

ENDS


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