The Child poverty action group this week released, in two parts, a report into the links between poverty and child abuse (Part 1 pdf, Part 2 pdf). These reports did not get the attention that they deserved, because of course the Key spying circus is in town, sucking up all the media oxygen.
The Herald managed to muster one good article on the reports, buried (so it seems) in the “Crime” section:
Child abuse policies ‘inadequately informed’ – report
New research into child abuse suggests current social policies aimed at reining in New Zealand’s high rates of abuse are “inadequately informed”.
A Child Poverty Action Group report, which analysed abuse notifications received by Child Youth and Family between 2008 and 2012, found while higher rates of child abuse were associated with socio-economic deprivation, policies which focused specifically on income levels were unlikely to be the correct approach.
In particular, results from the report questioned the focus placed on benefit dependency and child abuse by the Government’s White Paper on Vulnerable children.
The group’s convenor and social security spokesman Associate Professor Mike O’Brien … ”[Social Development Minister Paula Bennett] has made a great play about the link between people being on benefit’s and child abuse. “The critical question is…[one] simply of inadequacy of income and issues about poverty,” he said. …
“The fundamental piece is to make sure that we get a comprehensive approach to thinking about issues of child abuse rather than doing what has often happened in recent times which is grabbing at one piece…which might be of interest. …
The Green Party have also weighed in on the report, saying the Government needed to stop beneficiary bashing. “Paula Bennett has just introduced punitive welfare policies which put beneficiary families in even more impoverished circumstances,” Green party Children’s spokeswoman Holly Walker said.
“If the minister wants to start turning around New Zealand’s horrific child abuse rates she should start supporting families and implementing policies to life them out of poverty, not bury them deeper.”
Ms Bennett was unable to comment on the report as she had not received a copy.
Somebody please send Ms Bennett a copy and then ask her again next week. There was also a short piece on the NewsTalk ZB website:
New research says Government should focus on child poverty
New research is suggesting current government policies aimed at clamping down on high rate of child abuse, are on the wrong track.
A Child Poverty Action Group report has found benefit income does not appear to be related to rates of child abuse. … It’s found while higher rates of child abuse are associated with socio-economic deprivation, policies which focus specifically on income levels are unlikely to be the correct approach.
The report says simple solutions based on characteristics of individuals are unlikely to be effective.
It says policies should address broader issues of poverty and its relationship to demographics and peoples’ ability to access employment, housing, health and other services.
Stuff’s coverage was pathetic – a “league table” of the regions with highest abuse. The Greens, of course, put out a good press release. But as far as I can tell in terms of media coverage that appears to be that (please add further links in comments if you know of them).
Child poverty and child abuse shame our country. Here we have research which explores these issues, and shows that the government’s punitive focus on beneficiaries is misguided (to say the least). These reports deserved much better coverage than they got. I’ll cover some of the detail in the next couple of editions of Poverty Watch.
Let’s close with Holly Walker trying to get a straight answer out of Paula Bennett:
Here’s the standard footnote. Poverty (and inequality) were falling (albeit too slowly) under the last Labour government. Now they are on the rise again, in fact a Waikato University professor says that poverty is our biggest growth industry.
Before the last election Labour called for a cross party working group on poverty. Key turned the offer down. Report after report after report has condemned the rate of poverty in this country, and called on the government to act. Meanwhile 40,000 kids are fed by charities and up to 80,000 are going to school hungry. National has responded with complete denial of the issues, saying that the government is already doing enough to help families feed their kids. Organisations working with the poor say that Key is in poverty ‘la la land’.
The Nats refuse to even measure the problem (though they certainly believe in measurement and goals when it suits them to bash beneficiaries). In a 2012 summary of the government’s targets and goals John Armstrong wrote: “Glaringly absent is a target for reducing child poverty”…
The costs of child poverty are in the range of $6-8 Billion per year, but the Nats refuse to spend the $2 Billion that would be needed to really make a difference. Even in purely economic terms National’s attitude makes no sense.