Participate: Green Paper on Vulnerable Children

Written By: - Date published: 5:57 pm, February 17th, 2012 - 39 comments
Categories: babies, democratic participation, families, poverty - Tags:

Paula Bennett, in her rush to action, has a Green Paper that intends to create a White Paper that may result in some legislation that she hopes will help “vulnerable children”.

But, much as National have spurned attempts from other parties for a non-partisan action on child poverty and looking after our nation’s children, we should still make our best endeavour to inform this process and hopefully improve our children’s lot.

The Green Paper has a website, asking for feedback – which must be received by February 28.

You may wish to skip the Paula Bennett video, but there are nice easy ways to give feedback: a short survey, a long survey, email for longer submissions [ yourresponse AT childrensactionplan DOT govt DOT nz ], facebook, or even good old fashioned post (The Green Paper for Vulnerable Children, PO Box 1556, Wellington).

I’ll be emailing a longer submission, not least because the short survey’s first question seems to start with a false dichotomy: Has government got the balance right between supporting parents and families/whanau and protecting children? I would have thought protecting children would all be about supporting parents and whanau. Helping them make the right decisions; teaching them the skills they need; making sure they’re not in poverty.

And indeed the whole paper is missing a somewhat vital point: what is a ‘Vulnerable Child’?

I’d have thought that the 1 in 5 children (about 200,000 of them) growing up in economic poverty were all vulnerable for a start. But actually, anyone who’s ever held a newborn babe in their arms knows every child is intensely vulnerable – particularly in those early years.

Which speaks strongly to the importance of universal services. While many stories of abuse are those in economic poverty with all its added stresses, poverty of the spirit can be anywhere in society. And anyone who’s had their educated parents give advice about the lack of need for car-seats – or sleeping a baby on their front, or recommending a belt on the grounds that it did them no harm – knows that even education is no great predictor of good advice when it comes to children and parenting.

As part of the government’s Action Plan I’d like to see universal parenting classes. Something that would easily integrate into the Adult and Community Education program our nation was blessed with before National decimated it. Most parents attend neo-natal classes prior to their first baby’s birth, and pretty much all new parents complain that babies don’t come with instruction manuals. What if we went some way to providing those manuals with parenting classes freely provided to all? Give people the skills to know how to look after and develop their child, and skills to discipline without having to resort to violence.

Some parents fall through the cracks, so I think compulsory Well-Child (generally Plunket) enrolment would be a good thing. Make sure we pick up on those families that are slipping, and catch them before they fall.

We could remove the stresses of those early days with greater paid parental leave – let’s have 6 months and look at extending it from there. We need to recognise that the most important job in society is raising the next generation; instead of denigrating it and insisting people get back to ‘real’ work when their child reaches the age of 1 – as is on the current government list of proposals.

Research shows that the first 3 years of a child’s life are incredibly vital, and if we want to grow a better society instead of a broken one we need to invest, to make sure young children’s parents are able to provide the best environment. That probably includes extending free Early Childhood Education to a younger age for those who are struggling – rather than the cuts National keep making.

Once children are past 3 they’re still vulnerable though. We need a greater safety net throughout their lives.

Free access to healthcare (including dentistry) – and readily available, probably at schools, so that we can prevent rather than manage both diseases and family problems. School meals, to ensure all our children are getting a feed, and are ready to learn and grow.

I might as well say it as I’m endorsing enough Labour policy here: let’s have a Ministry for Children and a Senior Minister in charge of it, to ensure the government, their departments and our laws are focussed on the next generation. They are, literally, the future of our country after all.

So extend working for family child benefits to beneficiaries too, take the financial stress off and remember that the DPB is for the children, not the parent.

And for those righties who say what I advocate will result in making having children too easy, and people will breed for a lifestyle – I say give people better options then. Jobs to go to, the training to fill them, the social mobility to give them hope for better. And make contraception free so it’s not cheaper to create a kid than not.

There are of course lots of other things that will greatly help vulnerable children, but as wider economic questions are apparently out of the scope of the paper (and it seems of the National Party).

Foremost: Housing – how much better would our children grow if they weren’t in damp over-crowded houses? This is an understated crisis in Aotearoa. Children should have a right to good shelter, food, love and safety – and while this plan is focussed on the last point, they need the first 3 every bit as much.

We need to invest in education and skills to give all these kids a chance in life. Not just universities for middle-class folk, but all the job creation and apprenticeship and skills for those who aren’t academically inclined (that are currently being cut). We need everyone to succeed as a nation after all.

They need jobs to grow up into, and they need the social mobility that is decreasing in our country. So that they have hope for the future, and the belief that they can succeed, so it’s worth keeping trying.

And they need an environment that is great to grow up in. We have a fantastic country, but we can no longer all go and jump in the local river safely, and some of our water tables are declining too fast. Who knows what the frack all National’s mining plans will do to it?

Those bits may be out of scope, but make sure you have your say on what we can do for our vulnerable children.

If we want a great country, we need to focus on our kids to grow the best possible next generation – is this government bold enough to do that?

39 comments on “Participate: Green Paper on Vulnerable Children”

  1. dave 1

    If we want a great country, we need to focus on our kids to grow the best possible next generation – is this government bold enough to do that?

    No.

  2. Wayne 2

    The solution is simple. Hand out cash and vouchers etc to encourage those who cannot afford to have kids not to have kids. Even if you give the varmints of society, say 50 grand each to sterilise themselves, that would reap dividends farther down the track.

    • McFlock 2.1

      Damned straight. John Key wouldn’t be PM, for a start (what with having a solo mum and all). /sarc
           
      You did get the memo that eugenics was bunk, didn’t you Wayne?

    • RedLogix 2.2

      Yeah.. huge shame you didn’t get aborted contemptible scum. The standard of RWNJ’s might be better round here.

      • Colonial Viper 2.2.1

        Interestingly Wayne hasn’t figured out whose labour is going to be powering the NZ economy in the ongoing age of energy depletion and reduced fuel usage. Clue: it won’t be old white baby boomers.

    • mik e 2.3

      wayne with no brain its been tried and has failed maybe the one child policy could be tried here.
      seen that National is now a branch of the CCp!

      • Draco T Bastard 2.3.1

        Population control is a necessary part of society and always has been. We’ve just managed to ignore that for the last couple of centuries.

        • RedLogix 2.3.1.1

          Yes but ONLY when women have the power of that choice for themselves.

        • Well, to be fair, we do have a few million years of evolutionary pressure towards breeding ALWAYS being a positive thing working against us. Let’s not paint this as a problem purely arising out of stupidity, there’s an enormous amount of social inertia working against the logic of limited resources.

        • Vicky32 2.3.1.3

          Population control is a necessary part of society and always has been. We’ve just managed to ignore that for the last couple of centuries.

          What do you mean by population control? Centuries back, we had, oh, let’s see – war and starvation! You want we should have more of that? Otherwise, I am not at all sure what you mean! Abortion is not population control, BTW, except by a crude male reckoning…
          • Draco T Bastard 2.3.1.3.1

            Just simple use of contraceptives works fine and full information about how many people the land can support.

    • rosy 2.4

      I think you’re missing the point entirely. While acknowledging it takes some money, it doesn’t take much to provide a good life for a child, especially a very young child. What it does take is knowledge and health. A good start would be to provide adequate post-natal support for all parents.

      At the moment parents are left to figure it out for themselves, which is fine if you’ve got support and good role models, but if not then you’ve got a tragedy waiting to happen in far too many cases. I also think you’ve forgotten that people have phases in their lives, in terms of money, health, and for want of a better word, enlightenment. It’s these things that make a child vulnerable, not money on it’s own.

      You have enough money for a child now, Wayne, but what happens if you loose it all – health, job home – when you’re kid is say 12? Does that mean you should never have had a child, that you should have predicted the future? Does that turn you into a ‘varmint’? Are you really any better than someone who had a child when poor, but 10 years later was earning good money and paying masses of tax? Social mobility might be on it’s knees, but it’s not dead yet – in both directions.

      • Budifly 2.4.1

        This is the best and most realistic comment i’ve seen so far. Every woman who is on the benefit and finds themselves pregnant should attend a course…. to learn how to cook a nutritious meal, how to budget, how to clean, how to discipline, how to do all the basic things. Childcare should be provided free while these woman are attending this course. It seems that the basics are being forgotten, it’s not about money, it’s about knowing right from wrong!!! Giving people more money wont help when they already choose to spend their money on smokes, drugs and alcohol instead of shoes, clothes and food for their kids.

        • McFlock 2.4.1.1

          The concept that most poor parents need to be told that they should buy food for their children rather than cigarettes and drugs is to my mind a perversion of what I understood Rosy to be saying. 
              
          Most poor parents need: A) more money; and B) assistance and education on less obvious aspects of parental life, rather than simply “don’t leave baby on the stovetop while you shoot heroin in the next room”. 

        • RedLogix 2.4.1.2

          Well yes. Of course our great-grandmothers would have boggled at the need for such a thing. Most women grew up in an environment with either lots of siblings, or plenty of kids about, and were usually expected to participate in assisting with child-care themselves.

          These days a woman can get to the age of 35 and have never so much as changed a nappy.

          I’m not judging on whether this is a good thing or not; society has after all changed in so many ways both for the better and the worse over the last 60 years… but the loss of these really valuable ‘domestic’ skills (for want of a better term) is one plainly unfortunate outcome.

          Determining what the content and context of such courses might be could be a somewhat fraught business…after all families are an astoundingly variable construct, both outwardly in terms of structure and form… and inwardly in terms of values and mores. Really tough to make one size fit all.

        • McFlock 2.4.1.3

          Oh – and it’s not just women who need to learn parenting skills like nappy changing and feeding.

          • RedLogix 2.4.1.3.1

            Yeah I was going to mention that… but it was a little out of context from what I was trying to say.

            My mum used to say that between the meat he pinched from the works and what he grew in his back garden, my grandfather fed a whole street during the Depression.

            These days there are too many of us who couldn’t grow a cabbage to save ourselves. So while the gender roles have changed a lot, it’s not just the ‘women-folk’ who’ve misplaced a lot of life-skills.

        • Vicky32 2.4.1.4

          This is the best and most realistic comment i’ve seen so far. Every woman who is on the benefit and finds themselves pregnant should attend a course

          “The benefit”? At present, there are still different types of benefit, for different purposes. I presume you mean the DPB, and that you wouldn’t dream of imposing your assumptions on a married or partnered woman on an unemployment benefit because she and her husband were made redundant from their jobs!
          The number of women who get pregnant whilst on the DPB is minuscule. I have known hundreds (literally) of women on a DPB over the past 30 years, and in all that time, I can think of one who was in that situation. Any woman who is already on a DPB has a child or children she’s already looking after and therefore doesn’t need to ‘do a course’. The DPB parent who spends her money on “smokes, drugs and alcohol instead of shoes, clothes and food for their kids.” is largely a myth.

  3. Wayne 3

    In the US a declining crime rate could well have something to do with the liberalisation of abortion laws in the 1970s.

    So providing abortion on tap, even encouraging it could also help the country out of its mess.

    http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/DonohueLevittTheImpactOfLegalized2001.pdf

    • mik e 3.1

      Fuuny wayne with no brain how your right whinger mates want to ban abortion maybe you are finally waking up left wing policies aschually decrease poverty funny that you haven’t figured that out yet!

  4. grumpy 4

    What could Labour possibly add to this? They had 9 years to sort it out and just left it to someone else to do……………….

    What new policies do Labour actually have – other than blame capitalism?

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      Ah, the old but they didn’t do it when they were in power WAAAAGH excuse for not doing anything now.

      You can’t do everything all at the same time – that’s basic economics. Labour focused on other things and they actually did see a decrease in poverty during their time in government but that was from the bubble brought about by unregulated capitalism.

      • Grumpy 4.1.1

        One could almost think that they are just using vulnerable children as a convenient political football.

        • McFlock 4.1.1.1

          especially if you ignored WFF, housing improvements, vaccination programmes, childcare subsidies, other tax cuts beyond WFF, increased spending on health and education, and so on.
             
          Don’t get me wrong – Labour didn’t go nearly far enough. But at least they tried, even if they were gunshy of losing elections.
              
          Compared to National, Labour were Mother Theresa. National have done worse than nothing – we’re going backwards.

          • ak 4.1.1.1.1

            Compared to National, Labour were Mother Theresa

            Amen sister. This whole “vulnerable kiddie” scam is a blatant dogwhistle for the mongrel vote.

            Tug at the heartstrings to slash the poor.

            Obscene. Grotesque. Shit on the floor.

            They couldn’t give a fat rat’s anterior.

            Never did, never will,

            Coz they think they’re superior.

            Give to the rich

            What they’ve raped from the poor.

            It’s all they’ve ever done

            and will do

            forevermore.

    • mik e 4.2

      Acshually child poverty under labour reduced for the first time since 1976 grump!

      • mik e 4.2.1

        Poverty increased under right wing governments so theirs the problem you want to solve it don’t vote in right wing governments! OECD figures back that fact infact the
        OECD recommended that we reverse many of the policies that create poverty!

  5. Ed 5

    Parenting classes could start at Intermediate level – with exposure to younger children and discipline issues etc, and expand to other social development of working living with others at older ages.

    National are going to put full priority on child poverty – they just need to wait until this consultation has been completed and analysed, and then they will work with various sectors to develop a ten year plan that will be able to be started after the next election . . .

    • mik e 5.1

      Ed you talk horse shit there has been enquiry after enquiry recommendation after recommendation .
      One thing for sure National will side step and delay for ever as you have pointed out in your diatribe!
      Cheap affordable housing.
      Better access to healthcare for poor people.
      Cheaper food.
      community social workers that aren,t burnt out from over work under pay.
      A Gareth Morgan type tax that does penalise beneficiaries that are coming of benefits.
      free food in decile 123 schools and preschools
      The Greens reckon that child poverty a $ 6 billion a year loss to the economy can be fixed for as little as $360 million a year ED.

    • Colonial Viper 5.2

      Ed. You’re just wasting another generation of young NZers as you wait for more reports.

  6. ron 6

    The problem with the Green Paper process is reflected perfectly in these comments.

    The evidence of how best to approach the issue of engaging parents and supporting them to be good parents is clear. The evidence around why communities do or do not take responsibility for their families and children is clear. the evidence on the factors relating to increasing deprivation and abuse is clear.

    The rest is opinion. Some of it sort of informed – most of it completely uninformed.
    Why is she asking “the public”? Most of us actually have no clue. We THINK we know but we don’t.

    But the research is there – it’s been done.
    ALL Bennefit has to do is look at the evidence – tell her Ministries to act on the evidence and resource the implementation of the appropriate responses.

    My fear about this Green paper is that she’s using it to do what she did with youth crime and unemployment – to get “public support” for processes that SHE thinks will work. In the case of LSV, Community Max, boot camps and Youth Guarantees she is dead wrong and has caused endless damage. It has wasted millions of dollars for no effect.
    Let’s hope she doesn’t take the same tack with this process.

  7. AJ 8

    Well…. Much of what I have seen as a visiting health professional involves young parents grappling with their own lives let alone that of a baby…. And then another baby…..lack of confidence, lack of intelligence. Lack of supportive or appropriate role models all contribute largely to the families I have seen who parent these vulnerable children….. So what is the answer…..?….one thing i would suggest would be of compulsory free health visits regularly to assess and subsequently refer vulnerable families to ongoing compulsory support in the home. Compulsory being the key…..

  8. nana 9

    ain’t that just the truth, I agree with AJ wholeheartedly. I also think contraception should be free along with family planning advice from age 12 for both boys and girls.
    Alcohol and drugs cause more problems than just having a low income, and once again educate educate educate from age 12 about how much brain damage is done to the developing foetus by alcohol, first and foremost – it is the worst drug ever invented. DPB for the first illegitimate baby, adoption for the rest, the working taxpayers should not be paying for someone elses DPB lifestyle choice.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 9.1

      People who think poverty is a lifestyle choice are immoral and cruel. Just saying.

    • RedLogix 9.2

      DPB for the first illegitimate baby, adoption for the rest, the working taxpayers should not be paying for someone elses DPB lifestyle choice.

      I whole-heartedly agreed with you up until the last sentence… then suddenly you leapt backwards a centuriy or so into a Victorian poor-house.

      Let see now… my partner’s sister has three children, two older girls whose father became an abusive alcoholic and the younger boy whose father died of a heart attack at 42. How does your simplistic little formula work out here then?

      • nana 9.2.1

        yes I should clarify that shouldn’t I….there are women on the DPB as a lifestyle choice, having children one after the other to different fathers with no desire to contribute anything to society other than producing children, these children start life disadvantaged from day one for many reasons not just the fact that they are born into a poor household. I have no beef with those people who find themselves inadvertantly on the DPB for reasons out of their control, they generally do their best to find ways to get off it and back into the workforce as soon as they can, if they can.

  9. Annie Newman 10

    Young workers up to 18 are “children” and young workers are vulnerable. Low wages, casualisation, contract work all contribute to poverty and hardship for young workers and their families. Decent work, including living wages for workers and their children, are important if we are to reduce vulnerability of our children.

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