You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Labour commits to care abuse inquiry

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/02/2017

Labour leader Andrew Little has committed to an inquiry into abuse of children in state care if elected in September.

The government is facing increasing calls for an investigation into the full extent of the abuse in state care, dating back to the 1950s, but has ruled out an inquiry.

Prime Minister Bill English on Monday declared an inquiry would be a "significant distraction", brushing off the latest calls in a letter from the Human Rights Commission, signed by a number of prominent New Zealanders.

"Until we know the full story and until we have the answers to those questions, we are not in a position to learn from what has happened and to prevent it from happening again," the letter says.

On Tuesday Mr Little committed to an inquiry, saying a government shouldn't shy away from what happened.

"It's not about pointing the finger of blame, it is about establishing what has happened," he said.

"I don't think it should be beyond any government of the day to acknowledge wrongdoing in the past, irrespective of the mores of the day, and to make amends for that."

The Human Rights Commission's letter has been signed by 29 well-known Kiwis, including Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy, Chief Human Right Commissioner David Rutherford, UNICEF executive director Vivien Maidaborn and Otago University Dean of Law professor Mark Henaghan.

The inquiry was first recommended by Judge Carolyn Hendon, who chaired the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service panel that heard stories from more than 1100 abuse victims.

As at September last year, the Ministry for Social Development had received 1370 direct claims of abuse prior to 1993.

Mr English on Monday questioned whether an inquiry that goes back over what happened would help children currently in care.

"In my view it would probably be a significant distraction," he said.

"It would tell us there was some pretty significant abuse of various sorts and some people have really suffered from it, and that's why the Crown's got a compensation process in place," he said.

The government last year revealed it had settled more than 900 abuse claims, including a personal apology and compensation totalling more than $17 million.

The Green Party and Maori Party have also backed calls for an inquiry.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon