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Poverty Watch 8

Written By: - Date published: 9:30 am, October 20th, 2012 - 18 comments
Categories: class war, national, poverty - Tags:

Welcome to Poverty watch, a weekly update on the National government’s lack of response to the urgent and growing issue of poverty in NZ. A lot of background issues and links are set out in Poverty Watch one two and three.

Wednesday (17 October) was “International Eradication of Poverty Day”. From the UN:

On Day for Eradication of Poverty, UN highlights needs for a holistic approach to helping word’s poor

With inequalities growing dramatically both within and between countries over the last 10 years, the United Nations marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty today with calls to tackle not only the material aspects of the scourge but also its social and educational dimensions and the unequal access to justice.

“Poverty is easy to denounce but difficult to combat,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day. “Those suffering from hunger, want and indignity need more than sympathetic words; they need concrete support.”

(See also the UN press release.) It didn’t get a lot of coverage here in NZ. There was a lunch time rally at Parliament, attended by representatives of Labour, Green and Mana parties, the NZEI, CTU and Service and Food Workers union, but mentioned mainly in the media by leading with the news that Anika Moa played (here, here, here). The rally coincided with a debate on Metiria Turei’s member’s bill to on child payments for low-income families:

Rally calls for end to NZ’s child poverty

…Ms Turei said it was unacceptable that 270,000 children in New Zealand were living in poverty. “New Zealand should be a great place to grow up. But thousands of kids don’t have the same opportunity that other children have to enjoy a good life and a fair future because their lives are hampered by poverty.”

Labour’s social welfare spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said there is political will on ending child poverty. “Unfortunately there is a complete absence of political will on the part of this Government and I use those words strongly, because you cannot deny the facts.”

In other news, there was some coverage of fraught issue of the links between poverty and child abuse. Tapu Misa sums up:

Child abuse plan shows a lack of vision

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is right when she says poverty isn’t an excuse for child abuse. There is no excuse for child abuse.

The link between poverty and inequality on the one hand and child abuse and neglect on the other is well-established.

Even Ms Bennett’s baby, the long-awaited white paper on vulnerable children, acknowledges that. The paper quotes an OECD report which notes that “limited economic resources, financial problems, low levels of education, and unemployment appear to be considerable risk factors for child maltreatment …”

The evidence shows, it adds, that “in high-income countries, low parental income and educational achievement are strongly associated with both child maltreatment and with deaths resulting from abuse”. The Child Poverty Action Group has argued, too, that “the single biggest risk factor for childhood abuse and neglect is poverty and socioeconomic inequality”.

That’s not to say “all or even most low-income families abuse or neglect their children”, or “all at-risk children live in poor households”. But it does mean “no sensible discussion of childhood abuse and neglect can take place without acknowledging the role of whanau and community poverty”.

Yet the white paper, reflecting the Government’s apparent determination to downplay the role of poverty, gives it only passing mention. Barbara Lambourn of Unicef NZ laments the missed opportunity: “Poverty is a factor in neglect, poor health and lack of opportunity – the white paper does not offer solutions to plan better outcomes for these children.”

Until we are honest enough and brave enough to acknowledge the role of poverty in the abuse of children in our society we will never effectively deal with the issue. Thank you Tapu for your excellent column.

Poverty Watch always ends with the following list, the National government’s response to rising poverty in NZ:

• National has not yet set any target for reducing poverty
• ?

18 comments on “Poverty Watch 8 ”

  1. Dr Terry 1

    I would like to add my great gratitude to Tapu as well. Thank God the Herald has this redeeming feature in its pages on Mondays. As I know Tapu somewhat personally, I can also vouch for her kindly and stalwart character.

    The “white paper” is noteworthy for what it avoids rather than for what it includes. Disappointing.

  2. AsleepWhileWalking 2


    ” Dr Patrick Kelly is puzzled by the key elements of the White Paper on Vulnerable Children.

    This is a surprise. As head of the country’s main child abuse unit at Auckland’s Starship Children’s Hospital, he was part of an eight-person “expert forum” in 2009 that laid out the first outlines of a plan to tackle New Zealand’s high rate of child abuse.

    But when the white paper finally emerged last week, with a proposed shared database of 20,000 to 30,000 “vulnerable” children to be selected partly by a new “predictive risk model” untried anywhere in the world, he felt “kind of blindsided”.”


    • AsleepWhileWalking 2.1

      Quote #2 (from the same article):

      “Overseas experience is not encouraging. Britain created a national database – of all children rather than just the most “vulnerable” – in 2004, and disbanded it in 2010 because of concerns about inaccurate data and security.”

      Quote #3 (same again)

      “And, if Kelly is right, a new database may not even be necessary. His 2009 forum called for more data sharing, but added: “The forum did not interpret data sharing to require any expenditure on new IT. It is possible to share data simply by allowing individuals in different agencies to talk to each other.””

      • seeker 2.1.1

        Yet the white paper, reflecting the Government’s apparent determination to downplay the role of poverty, gives it only passing mention. Barbara Lambourn of Unicef NZ laments the missed opportunity: “Poverty is a factor in neglect, poor health and lack of opportunity – the white paper does not offer solutions to plan better outcomes for these children.”

        Using the same link that AsleeepWW.provided, head lined: :Predicting trouble: Child abuse database,”- we might find out why:

        “The best clue to what has driven officials towards monitoring a small group of families through a national database lies in the Government’s drive to get better value for money out of all public spending.”

        And what is value for money?

        “A database of children at risk, backed by a predictive model ………”

        And who created the predictive model?

        “The Auckland University economists who developed the model assumed high-risk families might be offered……”

        Yep – economists. Economiste who are renowned for not being allowed/able to recognise the human condition in their calculations if it were to come and punch them in the face. Economists, who see humans as quantifiable units or “individuals” and believe there is ‘no such thing as society ‘ in Thatcherspeak.

        No wonder Dr. Patrick Kelly said, “the predictive model came “completely out of left field” and made him “profoundly sceptical”.

        Of course it does. It does not have our vulnerable children at it’s cold metallic ‘heart’, just money.

        Paula Bennett is in the wrong party if she wants to stop our children being abused and, due to the limitations of this model, could actually have added to our vulnerable children’s plight:

        ” Sandford-Reed says the resulting policy is “harsh” and “rigid”, driving social workers to trust a computer model more than their own on-the-ground judgment.

        The danger is it’s an easy solution: this person is not on the database, therefore they are not at risk,” she says. “These tools can come up with lots of false negatives and false positives, putting people through enormous amounts of stress when they don’t need to. That in itself, generating stress, is going to generate some risk for children.”

        Of course a predictive model created by economists to save money would probably not recognise poverty as that would be uneconomical. Heaven help our children.

        • seeker

          Thanks to reading an article on Bunji’s great weekly post, “Sunday Reading”, I have to slightly correct myself as I have come across one economist who has used his calculation and algorithmic skills to help people.

          Al Roth: An economist who saves lives.

          Roth, unlike many economists, accepts that for most of the world a conventional market in kidneys is a non-starter. So he began to use his matching algorithm to design a kidney exchange, where money wouldn’t come into it.


          His application of a kind of mathematics developed as a thought-experiment 50 years ago is keeping hundreds – perhaps thousands – of people alive.

          Al Roth was awarded the 2012 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences this week, he shares it with Lloyd Shapley, the man behind that half-a-century-old thought experiment. Amazing.

          • seeker

            Have just seen the major typo mistake in my comment 2.1.1.which read:

            “Using the same link that AsleeepWW. provided head lined: 😛 redicting trouble: Child abuse database,”- we might find out why:”

            When it should have read:

            Using the same link that AsleepWW. provided headlined: “Predicting trouble: Child abuse database”- we might find out why.

            Have no idea how an inappropriate smiley face occurred and cannot correct it now. I can only correct it here and apologise.

          • Rogue Trooper


        • prism

          In Britain the mistaken diagnosis of a doctor resulted in a mass uplifting of children and months of separation along with the idea that parents had been bad which shook the children’s trust in parents. There may have been some abuse but signs were misread with devastating consequences for the children some who remained estranged even when the parents had been given the all clear.

          A ‘predictive’ model – how can that do anything but ensure anguish for many to affect the few who could have been helped better with Family Start programs already running, working alongside parents. I think Waipereira Trust is one working in this model which had been suspended while it was improved.

          How can predictive computer models pull up their socks and do better? Bloody machines and technology I’m sick of these prissy middle class people trying to withdraw from the real dirty old world where people can live happily as successful people in their own preferred style, if they have reasonable standards for themselves as to behaviour and also help to get on the upward moving trend line.

          • seeker

            “better…..working along side parents”

            Agree with you wholeheartedly here Prism. Human understanding and support goes a long, long way towards creating a better world. I think it began to be frowned upon just when it was getting somewhere, round about 1979/80….

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    Until we are honest enough and brave enough to acknowledge the role of poverty in the abuse of children in our society we will never effectively deal with the issue.

    Poverty itself is the abuse and it’s the abuse of the society upon it’s people. That is what we need to accept because until we do we wont do what’s needed to eradicate it.

    • Bill 3.1

      The violence of poverty…

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1


        • seeker

          The abuse and violence brought about by ill informed thought and practice.

          Am so concerned for our children by these ghastly, oppressive, soul destroying welfare reforms. It’s our children who will pay and they just can’t afford to.

  4. karol 4

    It didn’t get a lot of coverage here in NZ.
    So true, Anthony.  And the media isn’t giving Turei’s Bill as much attention as it gives the opposition leaders and finance/economy spokespeople’s efforts on jobs/manufacturing either – Tapu Misa excepted.  Agree with Dr T about her, and think that her columns are always informative, well-argued and compassionate.

  5. captain hook 5

    these tories don’t have a clue about poverty.
    if they cant hear boy racers turning our urbs into private racetracks then they are certainly never going to hear the cries of the poor.

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