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There when it counts

Written By: - Date published: 12:12 pm, January 21st, 2011 - 49 comments
Categories: child abuse - Tags:

Herald, 21 December. Paula Bennett details the hideous abuse of a 9-year-old girl found shortly before by police. Says: “As soon as this case was brought to my attention I started demanding answers.” “I hope to God justice comes.” Today revealed, the child’s mother and teacher each separately wrote to John Key months before. Letters were transferred to… Paula Bennett.

So no, she didn’t start “demanding answers” as soon as she heard about this case.  Didn’t do anything. Despite the warnings. Ignored the letters. Went on a six-week paid holiday.  Luckily, the police found the girl.

Posing for picture looking sad on a swing for the Herald didn’t help that girl. Didn’t save her toenail ripped out and boiling water poured on it, did it?  Why “hope to God” when you could have done something yourself? Because you don’t give a shit. Because you’re too damn lazy to do your job when it matters. But never too busy for a photo-op and a bit of self-aggrandisement.

49 comments on “There when it counts ”

  1. Deadly_NZ 1

    OOPPSS Dropped the Ball there didn’t we Paula? I thought you would have had Sonny Bill show you how to catch.

    Useless, bloody waste of space, Air headed politician, just right for JK and the NACTS. But Hopeless for our Kids!!!!

  2. Bright Red 2

    ” The girl’s teacher also wrote to John Key in the middle of last year, and the letter was transferred to Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

    She replied but would not discuss it while the court process continued”

    but she had no problem calling for justice before, eh? Very willing to hide behind sub judice now.

    This could be the breaking of Bennett. If she knew about this case and ignored it.

  3. AndyB 3

    The girl’s teacher also reported on the suspected abuse to CYF’s (at the time). But the message the school got back from the child’s social worker was that she was “clumsy and accident prone”.

    There were 12 agencies working with the girl and her family … 12, FFS!

    Stop trying to blame Bennett for the systematic failure of 12 government departments.

    • Bright Red 3.1

      who’s the minister for those agencies? And who got two letters on her desk warning of the danger?

      Hint: she’s fond of long taxpayer-funded holidays in the US and releasing the private information of solo mums.

      • AndyB 3.1.1

        The latest article says: “The girl’s teacher also wrote to John Key in the middle of last year, and the letter was transferred to Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.”

        The article wrote back in December says: “Mr Key forwarded the email, sent six days after the girl was found and her parents arrested, to Ms Bennett”.

        So which one is it … middle of last year, or 6 days after she was found?

        Also i might add … the teacher says she sent many reports to CYF’s of suspected abuse starting very early on, but none were ever acted on.

        I would be willing to bet that Ms Bennett didn’t just leave the letter in a pile on her desk until after she “Went on a six-week paid holiday”. In fact she most likely got the agencies to investigate straight away, but with the sheer fucking incompetence of them, they most likely said, it’s ok, she is just clumsy and repeatedly walked into a door.

        but please, do keep digging and trying to pin this on Bennett.

        • Lanthanide

          Yeah, I have to agree with Andy’s take on this.

          Unless you’re expecting Paula to go and personally investigate these things herself, all she can really do is task her ministry(ies?) to do the job. If the chain of command in the ministry results in the same incompetent people doing the ‘check up’ and finding no problems, it’s not really Paula’s fault.

          If politicians personally intervened in every single letter that they received from the public, they’d never get anything done.

          • Bright Red

            I’ll wait with interest to hear what Bennett did in response to the letters. But, considering she’s not telling and knowing her track record, I’m sure it’s nothing.

            You’re damn right it’s her job to task ministeries when she gets information like that. And you would be surprised to learn that good ministers do actively respond to such issues when they are made aware of them, rather than just giving form responses to the letters.

          • Marty G

            Lan. Remember how david carter had clause inserted into legislation specifically to legalise doug schmuck’s building on a few metres of public reserve? Ministers have the capacity to focus on ‘small’ issues if they choose

          • Kevin Welsh

            “As soon as this case was brought to my attention I started demanding answers.” “I hope to God justice comes.”

            The maybe she should just shut her big fat pie-hole instead of making the above statement which was a pack of lies. But I am sure it will look good on the six o’clock news tonight.

            • Rex Widerstrom

              True. One can’t run the line “But I am at least thrice removed from on-the-ground actions and thus absolved of responsibility when failures occur” and the “As soon as I heard a far-off cry for help I jumped into the nearest phonebooth and put my undies on the outside” (yes, sorry for that image).

              Then again, it’s rare but not unknown for a Minister to say “I am at least thrice removed from on-the-ground actions but I still bear responsibility for them, so here’s my resignation”.

              The name Denis Marshall ring any bells, Paula?

        • the sprout

          true… it’s unreasonable to expect a National minister to take any responsibility for their portfolios. how very unfair and unrealistic.

          still, the heat is being turned up and Bennett will burn:


          • gosh

            stop accusing us of reasonable democratic standards Sprouty. Hope you’re right though

    • Treetop 3.2

      The systematic failure of 12 government departments occurred because no one stopped to consider that the information gathered by all 12 departments had to be collated and analysed. I have previously raised the issue of a check list that any department/agency who has involvement with a family, (any child/ren being the main focus) has to fill this out regularly and for at least two key people to analyse the data.

      It is unacceptable that CYFs did not monitor with deligence the progress of all 12 departments/agencies who were involved with the family as their long history warranted this. The question for me is: What the notifications were to CYFs on this courageous girl and her brother and when were the notifications made to CYFs?

      • jcuknz 3.2.1

        I suspect that would be simply piling more work on an understaffed department which would distract them from saving other children falling through the cracks in the system. The department has been under staffed and under funded [ same difference ] for decades. One may instinctively dislike PB, she is a national minister of a particular look, but one should have some sympathy for the woman who has raised herself from the DPB and been saddled with the department… a poisoned challis? Not to mention politically inspired un-loyalty by her department?.

        • Treetop

          New money and a health agency to oversee the check list, collating and analysing. CYFS are not always performing in preventing all forms of abuse when a client is known to them. Something really needs to change fast.

          I am not talking about an extensive checklist but one which has key questions e.g.
          Any new notifications this fortnight?
          By whom?
          What action was taken?
          Any missed appointments the child did not attend?
          Reason for missed appointment?

          Some families need to be monitored as carefully as some offenders on parole to insure the safety of children in the parents care.

  4. Tim 4

    “Bennett said it was too soon to say whether people would be fired if the independent inquiry found wrongdoing”.

    John Key should fire Bennett over this (and investigate his own systems that meant these letters were ignored).

    • AndyB 4.1

      Which ignored letters? the ones from the school to CYF’s? Or the one to JK that was NOT ignored?

      If anyone should be fired, it should be the incompetent CYF’s case worker that failed to find abuse even after investigating, stating that the child was “just clumsy”. Any manager that failed to act should also be fired.

      This kind of abuse sickens me to my core, but at the end of the day if the agencies that are supposed to find and act on these cases of abuse are all incompetent, what can we do?

      Time for an overhaul of the entire system.

      • Marty G 4.1.1

        ‘ which ignored letters’? How about the one key forwarded to her?

        • AndyB

          who says it was ignored?

          • Bright Red

            the fact that nothing was done and Bennett hasn’t mentioned any action she took on any of the occasions that she’s had the chance rather suggests nothing happened. eh champ?

            • AndyB

              OK, Champ, you little smart ass. I’ll repeat again, for those of you who are hard at hearing.

              The latest article says: “The girl’s teacher also wrote to John Key in the middle of last year, and the letter was transferred to Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.”

              The article wrote back in December says: “Mr Key forwarded the email, sent six days after the girl was found and her parents arrested, to Ms Bennett”.

              So which one is it … middle of last year, or 6 days after she was found?

              If the news papers can’t even decide when JK got the letter, who are you to accuse Key or Bennett of wrongdoing?

              • Kaplan

                If the letter(s) were all after the abuse was discovered then a simple, ‘well actually the letters were received after the abuse was discovered’ from the minister would clear it up nicely…
                In the absence of this you have to give the journalist the benefit of the doubt.

                • marco

                  Ministers don’t answer their mail, complaints or letters are forwarded to the department in question and it’s the role of the Chief Executive to have systems in place to respond. Ultimately Bennett is responsible for the department, but she must rely on the systems set in place by MSD.

                  Strange situation this because MSD are usually very efficient at responding to this sort of thing. Perhaps we should wait for more to come out before jumping to a conclusion.

                  • Colonial Viper


                    Its the Ministers job to take action if it looks like no action has been taken by their underlings.

  5. BLiP 5

    I wonder if the Director of Human Rights Proceedings can add “party to torture” to the “breach of privacy” actions now being considered.

  6. shaz47 6

    How many other kids out there that aren’t so lucky to have the police go into to their homes.

    Maybe Paula needs to go and have a wee check in her in-box. “ITS THE PILE OVER THERE, THE ONE WITH ALL THOSE UNOPENED LETTERS, WITH THE LABEL, MY REAL JOB !!!!

  7. PC Brigadier 7

    Although national has hidden this fool for the last few months, I hope she is at the forefront of the media landscape pre-election. Her incompetence will eat National’s popularity. I just hope it doesn’t come at more human cost.

  8. fabregas4 8

    If you see the public sector as evil and wasteful and then you choose to cut its funding you will see system failures. Think about this poor girl, think Kiwifruit disease ..there will be more.

    • Bright Red 8.1

      think the public service’s emergency response to Chch (how excellent it was). this how government mine inspectors could have prevented Pike River.

  9. Wyndham 9

    I suspect there is much more to this case that has yet to be made public. It is just possible that the parents, perhaps grossly inadequate as such, found themselves dealing with an extremely ‘difficult’ child and did so in ways that were totally inappropriate but the only way they knew.
    At the same time it does seem that there has to be incompetence in the ranks of all those departmental people.
    Let’s wait until we hear more before making judgement.

    • AndyB 9.1

      thank you, finally some sense. look, if Bennett is guilty of not doing anything with the report, then she is toast and ill be the first one asking for her to be fired. But let us all just wait for the report to come out before jumping to a political points scoring match like so often happens on this blog.

      • Tim 9.1.1

        But what you are missing Andy is the culpability of both John Key and Paula Bennett. Forwarding a letter on that outlines abuse is occurring and nothing is being done about it by the agencies that should be acting is actually neglect of office.

        Good Ministers make it their work to check up on any personalised correspondance that should be responded to – that is simply their job. Good Ministers follow up weekly, or have a senior member in their office do this on their behalf, in order to make sure that the abuse has been investigated.

        I don’t accept that forwarding on a letter and then doing nothing to check that a personal plea to you was answered is good enough. If someone forwarded me a letter outlining that a department I managed was not responding to systematic child abuse I know damn well that I would be making sure something was done about it.

        I know between painting her car in leopard print, eating pies and ticky touring around the world it is hard to do the responsible thing – but I would hazard this is why she is being paid $250,000 K a year. We often hear that high income earners deserve their money because of how tought their job is and what they have to do – pity half the time they are unable to do the bleedin’ obvious and prevent a 9 year old from going through hell.

        Her and JK to have some responsibility here.

        • AndyB

          Well CYF’s were investigating, there was a case worker, the case worker stated that there was no abuse, the child was just clumsy! I mean if the departments cant get it right, then we are all screwed.

          Letter after letter was sent by the school to the agencies, before she even emailed JK. She only emailed him after being fed up with the failure of CYF’s. This should have been sorted out months ago. Well and truly before JK and PB even got involved.

          Once again, i will wait to see the outcome of any investigation and will be the first to put the boot in if PB or JK have anything to answer for.

      • QoT 9.1.2

        I understand you were probably responding to the second part of that comment, AndyB, but it might pay to be a bit more specific upfront when responding to someone who starts off by saying that maybe we should just, like, understand that some kids are so terrible you just get so frustrated you have to abuse them.

        • AndyB

          sorry, that’s not the bit i was replying to. the specific was: “Let’s wait until we hear more before making judgement”.

          On reflection i should have made that clear.

        • Maynard J

          I don’t think anyone but you would take it that way… I mean, you’ve already managed to completely misconstrue Wyndham’s comment in a fashion only you and Big Bruv seem capable of doing, when it comes to commentors on this blog.

          Actually, daveosaurus has done the same below.

          If you guys want a few pointers in comprehending a comment, it’s to read all of it (in this case, the words ‘grossly inadequate’, ‘totally inappropriate’ and ‘only way they knew’ are the key ones you’ve clearly missed) before the red mist decends.

          • AndyB

            i think that was a little out of line comparing me to BB. I was clarifying for QoT as they kinda seemed to want a clarification. Anyway, your welcome to your opinion.

            • Maynard J

              Oh dear – you’ve got it wrong. I was comparing QoT to BB. My reply was to QoT’s comment, not yours. I don’t think you needed to clarify your original comment because it’s perfectly clear what you’re discussing.

              Although this has illustrated confusion can occur fairly easily.

    • Daveosaurus 9.2

      So it’s the girl’s own fault she was abused, because she was ‘difficult’ ???

      You sick fuck.

      • jcuknz 9.2.1

        But if the parent doesn’t have the skills to manage an awkward child and resorts to violence the way many have been taught in the past? It is not right, in this extreme case it is disgustingly horrible, but it points to a problem with our society that people are simply permitted to have children with little or no preparation …. its there I know but one has to actively seek it out and our society is not organised to make it happen.[ That takes funding ] No wonder we are world leaders in this sort of thing because we have been taught that ‘somebody will sort it out’ rather than ourselves..
        That is the problem of an irresponsible society instead of a responsible society, socialism gone bad.

        • millsy

          Hey, jcuknz,

          Do you really want to return to the days of orhanages and instutional care for children? The 50\’s wernt that great:

          1) gays locked in the closet
          2) young people severley beaten
          3) Single mother treated like lepers
          4) If you couldnt spell \’cat\’ you were chucked in the nut house
          5) single mothers had their babies taken from them
          6) women were not allowed to divorce their husbands
          7) spousal rape legal
          8) women died from illegal abortions

          Thats what I hate abour grumpy old men like you, you want people to be forced into unhappy and unsafe situation because you want to return to some society that never existed

  10. Treetop 10

    Oh please, this so called “dealing with an extremely difficult child” is a child who would have dissociated to cope, possibility of PTSD and other anxiety due to sexual abuse, for certain had insecure attachment, (due to being in care most of her life), low self esteem and low self worth due to the verbal and physical abuse she endured in the home.

    I am sure that Paula Bennet knows what I am talking about and if she doesn’t she is not fit to be the minister in charge of the welfare of vulnerable children.

    I have high praise for the cop who had the brains to understand the distress of the child and did not dismiss her bruises.

  11. Colonial Viper 11

    Bennett. Head. Chopping block.

  12. just saying 12

    Is there any evidence Blankey even passed on the letter,
    When I was up in Auckland it was mentioned on the news at the time that Key had received a letter about the situation months before. There was no mention of him passing it on then. Later, there was no mention that a published letter was sent to him long before the police became involved, and a letter to him published in the Herald, implied that he received it about the same time the police intervened. As I recall it didn’t say when Key received it because I had an arguement at the time with one of his most ardent fans about it, who insisted that Key could not have received it months ago, because he would have taken action immediately.
    Why the media didn’t follow up on the ‘months ago’ letter at the time was a mystery to me and I wondered in the end if I’d been mistaken when I heard the original item.

    • Carol 12.1

      According to TV3 News web site in an article dated 24th Dec 2010, they have seen a similar version of the letter the mother sent to JK, in the form of an open letter.

      In the open version of this letter, the mother was reporting that her daughter had been abused while in CYFS’ care, not that she was in danger of abusing the child herself. Although she does say that she had asked for help from CYFS early on:


      In it she says:

      “I hate CYFS so much because when I was depressed after I had my daughter I had asked so much people for help including my midwife…

      “CYFS decided it was ok to come and uplift my baby straight away from me and even got the police involved to arrest me if I didn’t give up my baby.

      “My daughter went into care when she was three months old and while she was in CYFS care and protection my daughter was sexually assaulted even though CYFS know about the incident they have paid for 12 sessions of counselling and are not prepared to pay for anymore counselling at all.

      “I want to sue the department for this grief, pain, trauma, stress that they have caused my family.”

      Bennett didn’t know about the open letter until 3 News contacted her office today, but she did know about the letter addressed to the Prime Minister, which she says she did respond to.

      • just saying 12.1.1

        The letter published in the herald was from her teacher, and I understood that it was the same letter that I’d heard on the news that Key had received months before. Of course there being two letters confuses things.

  13. ghostwhowalksnz 13

    SO this is the real reason for the activity over this poor girl.

    Letters sat unopened on the PMs or Ministers desks

    So now they have a Yes Minister spin all worked out.

    When asked about why you didnt do anything before ,
    ALWAYS talk about what you have done SINCE.

    Its called confusion marketing!. Baffle the poor buggers

  14. Roger 14

    Regarding the arguments presented about it being the fault of the Ministry staff and trying to absolve Bennet of any responsibility. She should not have to personally see to every issue that presents itself on her desk. But it would be silly to leave it to the ministry and wash her hands of it. If the ministry staff were incompetent, where was the follow-up to make sure things were happening. Why was she not challenging any findings that suggested that the issue was not being solved? In any business, anything that ends up on a high level executive’s desk relating to poor customer service or an incident of harm would result in swift and coordinated action with strict follow-up coming from all levels of management. The fact that Bennet cannot or will not get appropriate action on this suggests that she is ineffective or unconcerned. It was 6 months. This should have been sorted within 6 days.

  15. Ben 15

    Incredibly, most of you commenting here do so out of complete ignorance of the facts yet the bitterness and accusations run as thick and as slow as the very blood you’re baying for.
    You people are so eager to see Paula Bennett’s head on a stick, one can almost see the saliva dripping from your vile, angry mouths. It is disgusting to see New Zealanders pounce so quickly in an attempt to drive a political stake through the heart of a Minister, when you have all forgotten at the centre of this, a child has been horrifically abused in her own home.
    The above string of hateful comments illustrates the ugly side of politics far better than any display in the debating chamber.
    Just like you, I’m not in receipt of all the facts of this case as it’s yet to go to court. But even I can figure out there were two letters – one from a teacher and one from the mother. We know the details of the teacher’s letter – the Herald printed it. She said she had concerns about the abuse, but wrote the letter AFTER the child was found. We don’t know the details of the mother’s letter which was sent part way through last year. Somehow I rather doubt she wrote to the PM warning she was thinking she might soon begin to torture and abuse her own child and could he please intervene. You people are stupider than you sound if you believe that. Why would Paula Bennett call for an inquiry if she or the PM were at fault?? Think about it before you unleash your angry left wing agenda.

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