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No inquiry for state care abuse: Tolley

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 29/11/2016

The government has paid more than $17 million to victims of child sexual abuse in state care, but won't hold an independent investigation or make a public apology, Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says.

Opposition parties have criticised her position on the abuse and neglect of some of the 100,000 children taken into state care across the country between the 1950s and 1980s, and the refusal to implement the recommendations of Judge Carolyn Henwood.

Judge Henwood made seven proposals after listening to the harrowing stories of more than 1100 victims through the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service, including the rejected recommendations for an independent inquiry and universal apology.

Green Party social development spokeswoman Jan Logie says the government is pushing through with settlements and confidentiality clauses without knowing the full extent of the abuse.

She questioned Mrs Tolley about her position in Question Time on Wednesday, suggesting some victims might not want a government department investigating failures of an earlier government department.

But Mrs Tolley says the Ministry for Social Development is independent and impartial and had already settled 900 claims with recognition of abuse, a personal apology and monetary compensation totalling more than $17 million.

Earlier she said with that process nearly completed there was no need for an independent inquiry.

"What we need is their claims recognised, the state to take responsibility for that, apologise to them so they can move on with their lives," she told RNZ.

"If we start now for a major inquiry then they have to relive all that again. Why would we put them through all that again?"

She added that there was no evidence abuse in state care was a systemic problem and that some who had abuse claims settled told her they'd had experienced "very good care" in other parts of the system.

Ms Logie accused the government of putting their fiscal bottom line ahead of survivor interests while Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said an independent inquiry would increase the government's liability.

"Undoubtedly there will be increased liability but that's because government agencies allowed terrible abuse and harm to occur to these children who were in state care and so this is the consequences of this failure," she said.

"Government just has to bear the consequences of it because those families shouldn't have to."

Labour children's spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern also said following through on Judge Henwood's recommendations was key to preventing future harm.

Her party has committed to a public apology to all victims if it wins government next year she said, urging the government to do the same.

"All Judge Henwood's recommendations should be implemented because the wellbeing of all children in state care is paramount," she said.

The Ministry of Social Development is in the process of adopting some of those recommendations.

Judge Henwood recommendend an independent monitoring and complaint service which Mrs Tolley said cabinet had agreed to "consider" as part of the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children.

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