Child friendly

Written By: - Date published: 8:17 am, October 17th, 2010 - 56 comments
Categories: families, labour, leadership - Tags:

The Labour conference this weekend is expected to release new “policy directions”. One of them is out already — and it’s good. What could make more sense than putting children first:

Labour focuses on children

Labour deputy leader Annette King says the party will put children at the centre of social policy.

She today told delegates at Labour’s annual conference that New Zealand was not doing as well for children as are other comparable countries. “We sit in the bottom third in OECD rankings for most child indicators. Many of our children are left behind. Their early life experiences are harmful and on-going and many Māori and Pacific children have poorer life chances than other children the same age.”

“The next Labour Government will put children at the centre of policy in areas including health, education, social development and housing,” Mrs King said. Labour sees a focus on children as the most effective way to reduce harm and costs in later life…

TVNZ fills in some of the initial details:

Labour’s initial plan is to give parents more options to stay at home, expand the 20 hours free childhood education already provided by the government and get all children enrolled with a Well Child Provider to give parenting advice. King said there would be milestones set to ensure the agenda was achieved.

See the whole speech here.

I think (no surprise here!) that this is great policy from Labour. It is simple, easy to sell (perhaps we’ll see a campaign like the Green’s iconic “Vote for me”), hard to argue with. But even better, it puts the focus where it belongs. On children. On lifting children out of poverty. On education. On the future. If properly done, the payoffs will be huge. Some of them won’t be felt for decades, but Labour and the Left in general has always been much better at planning for the future than the Nats. Go for it!

From the initial reports (see first link), the plan has “three main components”:

• Legislation and structural change
• Crucial early phases in children’s development, aged 0-2 and 3-5 years
• Breaking the cycle of socio-economic deprivation

The one thing I would like to add, the missing piece which has to be part of this picture, is providing for the future. If we’re thinking about children then we’re thinking long term. Making plans, economic and especially environmental, that look well beyond the usual three year electoral cycle. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a government that was doing that…

56 comments on “Child friendly”

  1. Thomas Forrow 1

    I think we will see Labour adopt a whole raft of Green Party Social Justice policies over the coming year,they have taken their time to come on board, but good on them 🙂

  2. QoT 2

    It’d be great if there weren’t that whole “but we didn’t extend Working For Families to beneficiaries even when we got slammed for it, because letting kids starve is a great “incentive” to make their parents work!” skeleton leaning out of the closet.

    … What’s that, Sooty? Annette actually holds up WFF as a grand achievement of the previous government and blames National for the increase in child poverty since then? Even though the effects of rising unemployment during a recession could probably have been mitigated by the programme being extended to beneficiaries? You don’t say.

  3. burt 3

    So the next Labour govt will move us into the top half of the OECD rankings…..

  4. just saying 4

    Thumbs up, good progress. There seems to be a committment to restore all the supports and resources, such as the Training Incentive Allowance that have been stripped by National, and broaden them. (But there seems to be a bit of fudging around whether there would be significantly more funding for them).

    In regards to beneficiary families and poverty, there’s some good stuff starting with:

    “There will be recognition that caring for young children in families is work and is a valuable contribution.”

    And this:

    “Forcing parents into unstable, low paid jobs or dependent unstable relationships is a recipe for trouble. Part time work can also assist a sole parent through transition and help reconnect them to the workforce. But there has to be jobs for them”.

    And a clear indication that benefits levels for families are inadequate, and need to be increased:

    “Labour does not want a New Zealand where large numbers of children are growing up with stigma and poverty. Current benefit arrangements (in particular the DPB) doesn’t do what is needed, it doesn’t provide adequately for the children affected, their needs and development, especially in long term benefit families. It doesn’t provide either an adequate income or a pathway through the transition back to stability, education and good paid work. The costs of this are clear as I set out previously”.

    The devil’s in the detail but, hopefully Labour is taking some important steps towards tackling intergenerational deprivation.

    More like this please.

    • QoT 4.1

      “Seems to be” would be the key phrase there. And I cannot agree with you on the sole parents comment – sure, there have to be jobs available which are flexible to allow for school holidays and school hours.

      But as soon as someone starts framing the discussion as “but work is GOOD for solo parents!!!” I frankly need to see an acknowledgement that some parents cannot work, and some parents need protection in place against discrimination, and society in general has to do a shit-ton more in terms of childcare provision and flexible work arrangements, and a fucking firm commitment to not punishing those parents who simply are not able to live up to our insane “the only valuable work is paid word” philosophy.

      That paragraph of Annette’s simply does not address any of these things – so bad work is bad – but good work is good! – but mean old National hasn’t provided the good work ’cause they’re evil. Not buying it.

      And Jesus fucking Christ could Labour Head Office hire someone to proofread their speeches, the noun/verb disagreements are killing me.

      • just saying 4.1.1

        Astute as always QoT.

        Agree with what you say.

        But I’m making a big effort to keep my depressive realism at bay today, and there does seem to have been some progress in Labour’s position, and if so I applaud it.

        It wasn’t long back that Goff’s response to the hate campaign against sole parents was along the lines of the “sins of the parents shouldn’t be visited on the children”. So, you know, – progress surely?

        • QoT 4.1.1.1

          I’m with you on hoping for progress from Labour, JS – I think my own depressive realism may be winning today though.

      • Carol 4.1.2

        There is this in King’s speech:

        “There will be recognition that caring for young children in families is work and is a valuable contribution. Those taking time out to care should not be harshly penalised.”

        She said Labour also recognised some parents needed, or want, to work.

        So, while she does seem to be implying that paid work is the norm, she is saying that child care is work that makes a valuable contribution (presumably to the country). But, as with most of the policy outlines so far, the full impact depends on the more detailed policies announcements to come.

        • Luxated 4.1.2.1

          There will be recognition that caring for young children in families is work and is a valuable contribution. Those taking time out to care should not be harshly penalised.

          Almost a perfect quote from Annette, only needs one change.

    • Vicky32 4.2

      Yes, it’s very refreshing! (From what I heard on Nat Rad this morning.)
      Deb

  5. Mac1 5

    Just saying,
    I would be interested to know the context and the actual words that you say Goff used.

    The interpretation that you give your version I would share your concern with, too.

    I wonder whether the alternative, as I read your version, along the lines of ‘that children should not suffer because their parents cannot live together,” was what Goff meant?

    Context and actual words would clear up what could be a misinterpretation.

    • just saying 5.1

      Mac1,
      I’m trying to track down the clip. It was the tv news, he was responding to some dpb bene bashing by Bennett I believe. And it was as much that he didn’t stand up for the sole parents as much as the comment he did make.

  6. The Chairman 6

    Where is this policy heading?

    All children are to be enrolled with a ‘Well Child Provider’ and will be monitored and evaluated in areas including health, education, social development and housing to ensure they meet the criteria set out by the state.

    Will an overweight child be seen as a form of parent abuse?

    Is an overweight child really in the right family environment if the family fails to conform after numerous interventions?

    To reduce harm and costs in later life will the child then be removed?

    • infused 6.1

      If a child is overweight, the parents are to blame to be honest. Like father like son… look at most fat families. The parents are always overweight.

      • The Chairman 6.1.1

        So will kids be removed from the family and sent to privately run fat camps? And what will be the consequence of continual failure to reform?

        • Bill Browne 6.1.1.1

          Yes, of course they will.

          And people who fail to reform will be sent to the gas chambers.

          Happy now?

          • The Chairman 6.1.1.1.1

            I’m curious on how they plan to get recipients to conform?

            • QoT 6.1.1.1.1.1

              Well obviously we’ll just put them on one of those diet and exercise programmes which everyone KNOWS works, and which are totally sustainable and successful and have AMAZING track records of people not gaining all the weight back within 5 years.

              Just as soon as they find them.

        • bbfloyd 6.1.1.2

          T.C..they will be threatened with having to recite your pep talks over and over until they cheer up.

      • QoT 6.1.2

        If a child is Maori, the parents are to blame to be honest. Like parent like child … look at most Maori families. The parents are always Maori.

        [Psst, it’s called GENETICS. If we *didn’t* so often see fat kids with fat parents there might be a point to obesity-panic.]

        • Puddleglum 6.1.2.1

          It’s not quite that simple QoT. Genes don’t predetermine phenotypes like obesity. It requires a particular kind of social and economic environment (i.e., one like ours) for genes that predispose someone to lay down increased numbers of fat cells during development to actually result in obesity. They are not destiny.

          Also, weights have been increasing across the genetic board and have been increasing at all age levels, so while some bits of DNA make some people ‘canaries in the mine’ it misses the point to claim that obesity is principally genetic. Identifying genes might help at the individual, medical level but that should not overly influence policy choices related to the population level phenomenon (causes at the individual level can be quite different from causes at the population level – it’s an epidemiological point.).

          • QoT 6.1.2.1.1

            And you might totally have a point, Puddleglum, and this could totally springboard us into a discussion of the hilarious OBESITY EPIDEMIC RUN FOR YOUR LIVES, if I weren’t directly replying to a It’s All The Parents’ Fault comment.

            [Seriously, though? 1. Weight is more determined by genes than height is. 2. “Obesity” is an ill-defined panic-button. 3. Correlation is not causation. 4. Any discussion of the HEALTH DANGERS OF THE FATTIES which doesn’t immediately focus on the serious, proven, dangers of yo-yo dieting and acknowledge the complete lack of a predictable, sustainable weightloss method is not a discussion worth having.]

            • NickS 6.1.2.1.1.1

              Well genetics comes into it, but the main issue, if memory serves me right, is that the body gets used to having a certain amount of body fat, and any attempt to reduce that leads to the yo-yo fun.

              Basically adipose tissue releases a hormone that acts on a part of the brain, where hormone levels are related to not just the number of fat cells, but also the amount of fat stored. And some wiki-fu* shows that the hormone concerned is leptin, which messing with it’s levels only treats individuals with leptin related mutations, and no one else. Though there’s a modified version of leptin that does show more usefulness in mouse models, and will probably work in humans, except of course they need a delivery method that doesn’t involve needles and need long-term evidence that it’s not going to lead interesting side effects. But I’d actually need to get some sleep and read the paper on it first + it’s citation trail/tree to be of any more use.

              *You’d think leptin would be linked to straight from “adipose cell”, but no… But if it was WH40K related, you can bet it would be linked. /grumble grumble

          • KJT 6.1.2.1.2

            Its called natural selection. If you are going on long boat voyages with little food than those with the most body fat survive. Unfortunately an adaptation which served humanity well in times of variable food supplies is a disadvantage in the modern world.

    • bbfloyd 6.2

      T.C…it sounds like you’re looking for reds under your bed… try looking in your closet. they’ll be trying on your top hats for size.

  7. big bruv 7

    Classic!

    Labour now want to cure the supposed problem of child poverty, the very same problem they created in the first place.

    What a bunch of hypocritical tossers they are, and what a bunch of idiots you lot are for swallowing this partisan bullshit.

    • r0b 7.1

      I did wonder which would be the first troll to tell this lie. No surprise to find it is BB.

      Here’s a couple of news snips from 2008.

      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10503896

      Child poverty rate falling in NZ
      Monday Apr 14, 2008 By Simon Collins

      Child poverty is finally on the way down in two of the three rich countries where it increased the most in the 1980s and 90s – Britain and New Zealand.

      http://www.stuff.co.nz/4606691a10.html

      Children lifted out of poverty
      By TRACY WATKINS – The Dominion Post | Friday, 04 July 2008

      Fewer children are living in poverty – but working-age singles are increasingly the new poor, according to the Social Development Ministry.
      And the gap between rich and poor appears to be narrowing for the first time in decades, the ministry says in a report.

      The government-commissioned survey shows that while the median household income grew by 6 per cent in real terms between 2004 and 2007, the incomes of those in the low-to-middle band went up the fastest, at 12 per cent, compared with just 2 to 4 per cent for those on higher incomes.
      The Government’s Working for Families boost to low- and middle-income families with dependent children is a major factor – Social Development Minister Ruth Dyson said it was a key driver behind the survey finding that 130,000 children had been lifted out of poverty. More people in paid work was the other reason.

      • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1

        The 4th Labour government brought in the neo-liberal economic paradigm which set the basis for rising poverty in NZ (and elsewhere). Now, the 5th Labour government did do a bit to reduce poverty but Labour still hold some of the blame for increasing it in the first place and for not throwing out the neo-liberal paradigm that keeps poverty as a component of the socio-economic system.

        Still, NACT have done a hell of a lot in the last two years to increase poverty so that NACT could lower wages as they promised.

    • QoT 7.2

      You are so right, bb. Poverty never existed before the last Labour government, and the Great Depression was just a brief period of people feeling annoyed because they only had cake to eat.

  8. No one can discuss the future of children in New Zealand while ignoring this report http://oilcrash.com/articles/wake_up2.htm
    When 90% of the industrial food supply is dependent on oil and natural gas http://oilcrash.com/articles/eating.htm
    What is the point of discussing anything if the kids don’t have food?

    [lprent: You’re rapidly approaching my toleration levels for both thread-jacking and link-whoring. I suspect that it is time for you to study the policy and figure out how not to attract my moderating attention. ]

    • infused 8.1

      Simple. Eat your kids.

    • George.com 8.2

      Robert. A very significant part of the solution to what you have put up is income equalisation. The potential of an oil peak, shortage & price spike is significant on our political-enviro-economy. Income equalisation will form part of any progressive response, it has to.

  9. The Chairman 9

    Will Whanau Ora be incorporated into this new scheme?

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      Annette King seemed to think it was possible.

      • The Chairman 9.1.1

        Yes. And I see it is modelled off family intervention systems currently being used in the likes of the UK, Ireland, Victoria (Australia) and Manitoba (Canada).

        Gordon Brown planned to introduce a model that would see 50,000 families sent to behaviour correction centres.
        http://tinyurl.com/yb2lozj

        • QoT 9.1.1.1

          I’m almost bereft of a non-Godwin-citing response.

          Seriously, does no one in British politics read their own country’s sci fi?

        • Draco T Bastard 9.1.1.2

          To be honest I’m a little concerned about some of the stuff that they’ve mentioned. Supporting the parents and family is good. Forcing them to go is worrying.

          We, as a society, do have responsibility to the children – to ensure that they have the resources to grow and aren’t in abusive situations. We also have a responsibility to the parents (and for everyone else for that matter) for the same. This means that we need some reliable way to keep these responsibilities which I think is where Labours ideas are headed. However, people shouldn’t be forced but leaving it as voluntary is going to have some people not take in the help available and it’s most likely to be the people who need it most who refuse.

          That said, I really don’t see any way of preventing it. Just so long as it truly is at “arms length” as a means of training, support and help it shouldn’t be bad. We’ll just have to watch that it doesn’t cross the line into attempted control which is, of course, why we need open and transparent government.

          • The Chairman 9.1.1.2.1

            Saving the children sounds like a great cause. However, in politics, a great cause is often used as a front to help slip through unpopular policy.

            Who can say no to saving the children?

            • Draco T Bastard 9.1.1.2.1.1

              And hence my last paragraph.

              • The Chairman

                Rebuilding Christchurch was another great cause – and we all know what got pushed through with that.

                Watching them is one thing, stopping them is another.

  10. illuminatedtiger 10

    About bloody time. I’m sick of the anti young person (unless you goto a private school) agenda of this tory government.

  11. The Chairman 11

    As the private sector also seems to be involved, this will become fiscally driven, hence the business model will look to find fault and expand its services required. Moving away from the social need to the need to grow returns.

  12. Jeremy Harris 12

    and get all children enrolled with a Well Child Provider to give parenting advice.

    Dear Lord, a massive expansion of de facto foster kids… Becuase a paid state employee will always care about someone’s kids more than the parents do…

    Another giant waste of money enroute…

    • Colonial Viper 12.1

      I do find it interesting how Right Wingers can happily position initiatives to help parents and children succeed together as ‘giant wastes of money’ and to do so bare faced.

      Perhaps making Justice and Corrections the biggest parts of Government spending in a few years time as an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach would be more productive, according to the Right Wing?

      Newsflash – plenty of parents, wealthy and not so wealthy would be happy to pick up free expert parenting advice, just like they would be happy to pick up free expert advice on pregnancy and on breast feeding.

  13. Jeremy Harris 13

    Except it’s not free CV, it’s paid for out of taxes and we have massive shortfall in Health spending at the moment, not to mention we are borrowing $240,000,000 a week…

    Those in the horribly named “underclass” – sure give them a support person – but to have a compulsary state employee looking into the personal lives of majority of good families on the taxpayers dime..? Even alarm bells should be wringing in your brain…

    • Colonial Viper 13.1

      I thought as a Right Winger you would be familiar with a financial concept known as “Return on Investment”.

      Helping parents and children succeed together will reduce the pressure and cost of ambulance at the bottom of the cliff health services. Interesting that you talk straight faced about a massive shortfall in health spending even as the PM and the Deputy PM awarded themselves several hundred dollars worth of tax cuts per week.

      Doesn’t it strike you as really odd how the current Government in power can afford to bail out financial speculators to the tune of a billion dollars plus over the course of a month or two, but you say that they cannot afford to help ordinary parents achieve more success with their children?

      And I thought the Righties were all pro-aspiration and all that neat stuff. But its clear that its going to take a change in Government to actually deliver material results to ordinary New Zealanders.

      • Jeremy Harris 13.1.1

        CV, may I suggest reading comprehension classes…

        I’ve repeatedly stated on many blogs that tax cuts make no sense with these deficits and if you are going have them it should be to introduce a tax free threshold that benefits all equally and will simulate some retail sales…

        If you think I’m in favour of bailouts you obviously never read any of my posts, you just see my name and load your socialist nonsense typing programme…

        Tell me where the return on investment is by creating a massive new government programme to teach the majority of excellent parents the same techniques they are already using and that is making the assumption that these state trained advisors don’t teach the usual H & S mad, all cultures are equal nonsense they usually do…

        Is there any government programme you don’t approve of..? Any infringement on personal privacy you wouldn’t put up with..?

      • Bunji 13.1.2

        A number of points Jeremy.
        – Well Child Providers are not generally State Employees currently (Plunket being the biggest Well Child Provider), nor was there a suggestion that they need to be – so people can put their irrational fears of the state aside.
        – CV is very right on the return on investment. This level of ‘intervention’ in early childhood has ridiculously huge returns on investment. By finding problems and fixing them early on the hugely reduced jail and health bills in 30 years time dwarf any additional cost now.
        – In 2030 there will, for the first time in history, be more 65+ citizens than under 15s. Every child now is going to have to support a large number of old people – we cannot afford for one of them to fail. If you look at the ethnic profile of future populations, we specifically cannot have Maori and Pasifika children failing – and currently far too many do.
        “Becuase a paid state employee will always care about someone’s kids more than the parents do”: How does giving parents advice and help mean that you care more about their child? You’re providing a resource that they need, not judging them.

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