Call for extra vigilance to protect ‘at risk’ whānau and tamariki during lockdown

New Zealand’s national child abuse advocacy group says the importance of protecting New Zealand’s most vulnerable whānau and tamariki is as crucial as ever as the country faces extended lockdown periods.

Jane Searle, the Chief Executive of Child Matters, says being in lockdown should not stop people from looking out for those in the community who are at risk, particularly children.

“If you’re concerned about the wellbeing of a family or a child, please make sure you seek advice from one of the many community organisations who are there to offer advice and support. Don’t be scared to call. We all want the same thing – to make sure our tamariki are safe. Please, say something to someone, it could save a life.”

The call from Child Matters follows the death of a child in Rotorua yesterday and the subsequent homicide investigation of a 27-year-old woman.

“Lockdown – and the ongoing restrictions relating to COVID-19 – have been challenging for us all. But for some families, the extra stress and isolation that comes with lockdowns means the situation is exacerbated by pre-existing issues such substance abuse, over-crowding, or factors such as stress about loss of employment,” says Mrs Searle.

“In these situations, it doesn’t take much for the pot to boil over and tragically, family members – including our children – often bear the brunt of the consequences.”

Ms Searle says if people think someone is in immediate danger they need to make sure they call 111.

“If you have concerns about the wellbeing of someone in your community or you need to reach out for help yourself, call a helpline or one of the many community organisations that are there to support you and offer help, even in Level 4,” she says.

Family violence helplines, refuges and other crisis services are essential services and are operating at all lockdown levels.

Child Matters is an independent child abuse advocacy and training provider and New Zealand’s only national charitable trust dedicated to the prevention of child abuse.