Valuing children

Written By: - Date published: 12:32 pm, December 12th, 2008 - 21 comments
Categories: families - Tags:

I know I won’t be alone in being disappointed in the results of the Unicef survey, which says that “New Zealand has an appalling child poverty rate, spends too little on early childhood services for which there is unequal access, and lags far behind other developed nations in parental leave provisions, according to a new report.”

There are some real issues to grapple with here, especially around the use of child care for very young children. There’s a balance between economic necessity (family needs more than one income to survive) and what is in the best, long term interests of children. If agreement is reached that birth to three is the most important time for investing in children’s development and potential then surely we need to be looking at programmes and policies that support this.

To this end I heard an interesting item regarding the survey on National Radio (link to audio here) which suggested that in Sweden twenty years ago the use of subsidised care was widely used for young children but since their extended paid parental leave it’s now rare for children under 18 months to be in care. Surely that has to be a good thing for the children (and I would hope the parents too!). Contrast that to the UK and Australia where a majority of under ones are in some form of daily child-care.

This morning Dr Ian Hassall told Morning Report that there has been a lot of talk about women returning to the workplace, to increase New Zealand’s productivity.  He said that means that a whole generation of children are growing up in situations outside the home, without close family relationships. We may end up paying the price for this in ten or fifteen years time with a society that lacks cohesion, with higher rates of relationship breakdowns etc.

What are some of the options here in NZ? Remember last year when the Families Commission “proposed a three-stage increase from the present 14 weeks leave to six months initially, then nine months and finally 12 months by 2015.” At the time Judith Collins (spokesperson on family affairs) said she would take the Families Commission proposal to the National caucus.

“It would have to go to caucus and have the costings done and be weighed up against other initiatives, but I’m generally not against it,” she said.

What is their response now that there is growing evidence of the need for change, and now that they are in the position to do something about it? What about National’s pre-election policy on some of the key issues like extended paid parental leave? Difficult to say as it is hard to find on their website (indeed I can’t actually spot their policy at all!), but I hope that they accept the challenge to debate the issues. Given they decided to cancel the Family Commission conference, which was to look at how families were coping with the economic crisis, I am not feeling very optimistic.

21 comments on “Valuing children”

  1. burt 1

    9 years of socialist rule have delived this shocking outcome. Big challenges for the new govt.

  2. irnswn 2

    For the sake of fairness, were the costings Judith Collins refers to ever completed??

    Are you suggesting that the conference, which seems to have an adjusting agenda looked like a good use of public money?

  3. Dancer 3

    I don’t know whether National did any costings but they are certainly in a position now to get them done. As to the conference, while I think there’s always a need to balance cost with outcome, it seems to me that encouraging conversation and engagement around families is never a waste of time. If you are serious about valuing families and their future you need to walk the walk and invest for the long-term.

  4. Just wait for the “but what about productivity…”, “what about the economy…” lines from the righties. Sad.

  5. ianmac 5

    Burt: Had the same processes that were operating during  in the 90’s been examined we would have been at the bottom of the list. Progress has been made but attention to the under 5’s has still a long way to go. Will wait to see policy about parental leave and minimum wages leap to the front of Govt Policy.

  6. Peter Johns - bigoted troll in jerkoff mode 6

    Labour did a bad job for families as they thought welfare was the only answer after the 1990s. Well this did not work at all really. Too many homosexuals and barren females telling people how to raise their kids.

    Firstly, a child needs to be loved, this can only come from the parents, not the state. This has to be the focus, the nuclear family. If the immediate family can be allowed to function better I am sure we will get better outcomes.

    [lprent: I’m an uncle who is and has been heavily involved in raising the various kids around my extended family. By your definition my efforts are valueless. Similarly you are saying that only people who actually produce kids should have any effect or value to children. What about grandparents, whanau, godparents, etc. Or have you forgetten that families are somewhat larger than your definition.

    In fact why not go further – lets chop the fathers out as well. If you can’t carry a child then you really shouldn’t be involved either.

    Well the only thing that I can say is that you are a complete dildo with approximately the human compassion and understanding of a scarecrow (ie with a stick stuck up your arse). Why not crawl back under the rock that you came from.]

  7. burt 7


    I think being an uncle would place you a lot closer to the definition of “parents” than it would place you to the definition of “state”.

    If Peter Johns had said Firstly, a child needs to be loved, this can only come from the parents family…. would you still have thrown your toys?

    [lprent: Yes. The number of people who help care for kids is immense. It isn’t just a effort by parents or even family, it extends out to the whole community. Ask anyone who has been involved in womens refuges, schools, teachers, day care, police, etc. Essentially PJ is being a narrow minded idiot if he thinks that parents or family are the only ones who care about kids. ]

  8. James 8

    Peter: Wow.

  9. burt 9


    I declared my position on it here.

    Cartoon: Attacking the poor

  10. r0b 10

    9 years of socialist rule have delived this shocking outcome.

    No Burt, you partisan ninny, a decade of neoliberal economic reforms in the 80’s and 90’s delivered this shocking outcome. Labour led governments were slowly beginning to turn it around and lift children out of poverty.

    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.

    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.

    Kiss all that goodbye, the Nats will get back to making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

  11. burt 11


    How foolish of me, I though the last 9 years had some influence. Oh well we are back to the situation where 9 years was not enough time to make any positive impact but within days the National govt will have a negative impact.

    Q. Is it only National govt’s that can have an impact and is it always bad?

    [lprent: I really have to find time to finish for the banning/moderation module! Removed you from the moderation trap]

  12. Peter Johns - bigoted troll in jerkoff mode 12

    Iprent – I think you were the one vibrating when you were attaching to my post:) Relax, it is Friday.

    OK – I get your point re uncles, grandparents etc. Of course they should also have a positive role. But a lot of people I know were sick & tired of being told how to raise their kids by Clark et al. Jusk f&#* off and let me do it my way as I know better.

    Sure, I know of cases where the uncle/aunty/grandparents have brought up kids and all has been well but it certainly is a lot harder to start off with if the parents do not give a toss.

    However, I would like to delve into a comment you made that was interesting to me:
    ‘ I’m an uncle who is and has been heavily involved in raising the various kids around my extended family.’ Was this role as an uncle or as a ‘father figure’? If it was as a ‘father figure’ then you may have some f&^$ed up members of your own family. Either way I commend you for the effort as I am not an uncle. Are you a parent?

    [lprent: Uncle or cousin or whatever. Pretty much I was around when parts of the family needed help and someone asked – ie the classic kiwi whanau model.
    Parent – not yet. However a lot of family and friends are parents. They don’t appear to treat it with quite the mystical fervour that you do. They call on assistance from whatever source is likely to help with whatever issues are current. They seldom bothered with government except when they needed help. But that is what I pay my taxes for.]

  13. r0b 13

    How foolish of me


    I though the last 9 years had some influence.

    They did. They were slowly turning around this huge, intractable problem, and starting to repair the damage of the right wing reforms. Read the articles linked above, or at least the quotes. Read. Think. Try to see the truth, not your warped partisan ACToid view of the world were everything is Labour bad, NACT good.

  14. Zorr 14

    PJ: What is your justification for parenting? How is it that the way you parent has inherently better qualitys than what anyone else can tell you to do? When were Helen Clarks Labour party telling you how you could and couldn’t raise your children?

    So what that you are not allowed to beat your children black and blue for not shutting up while you are watching the rugby? Because honestly, the type of “parenting” legislated against by the Labour government only really affects those of us in the parenting business that are the outliers on the side of corporal punishment.

    I expect to spank my kids. And I expect to get away with it too. However, I do not view the s59 law change to have any effect on when I will feel the need to give my children a smack.

    You pretty much answer the reason why Labour legislated this way with what you say towards Iprent with the quote “Was this role as an uncle or as a ‘father figure’? If it was as a ‘father figure’ then you may have some f&^$ed up members of your own family”. If you are to look at this statement, you will see the reality of the legislation changes lie within it. To stop the screwed up parents being able to do what they wished and then justifying it under the old s59.

    Next time you wish to make a point, I would reccomend not attacking “homosexuals and barren females” as it already clearly states where you are trying to come from. So what if a “homosexual” wants to raise a child? Where is the research that says they are incapable of raising children as well as the rest of us?

  15. Peter Johns - bigoted troll in jerkoff mode 15

    ROB – you mean the foolish acts taken by National in 1990 when Labour left the cupboards bare? Must have been groundhog day last week.

  16. r0b 16

    Peter – I mean the foolish economic acts of the 1984 “Labour” government (in economic terms it was very right wing, from the people who went on to form ACT), and the 1990 National government. National had choices in the 1990s – they could have raised taxes – instead they chose to screw the poor, and contribute to a child poverty problem that has lingered for a decade, and was just, gradually, too slowly but at least finally, starting to turn around under Labour.

    Prediction – watch it start to get worse again under National.

  17. Ben R 17

    “Given they decided to cancel the Family Commission conference, which was to look at how families were coping with the economic crisis, I am not feeling very optimistic.”

    Dancer, did you read the interview with Nigel Latta in the latest Auckland Uni mag? He suggested that the $9 mill the Families Commission receives would be better spent on social workers/plunket nurses who could assist vulnerable people with young children.

  18. The one thing I don’t see in all of the above is a PM telling folks how to raise their children.. so do enoble the subject and give actual instances.. else I might figure a heap of propaganda has been thrown.. yeah, I know, the more you throw the more sticks.. till the hose comes on out to flush it all away..

  19. Dancer 19

    BenR – i haven’t seen – is there a link? Although as a parent i’d say we all need help and guidance – not just those identified as “vulnerable”.

    Northpaw I would note the child discipline bill (often quoted as an example of parental “being told-ness” was and continues to be supported by Mr Key. In addition National have other plans to get involved in parents lives, such as “Parents of truants will be fined $300 for the first offence and $3000 for subsequent wagging under legislation being rushed through Parliament.” And I believe court ordered parenting courses are on the agenda, along with keeping kids in education. Surely that’s interfering with parents rights (to be whatever sort of parent they want….).

  20. dancer,

    maybe I should have made it clearer I was refering to the person (of the PM). That I did not is in its way a tiny reflection of the politicized person that the national opposition both created and manipulated to their advantage among the people. Devil or demon incarnate type stuff.. and influential on the predisposed vociferous few.

    However, that such would be done unto Helen Clark does not in my book make for success in pitching back likewise to the new PM. In fact, I’d consider it makes it entirely dismissable as childish or.. worse politically, revenge. Which is why instances, support for any contention is important.

    In the response you give above I see that and thank you for them.

    In respect of ‘wagging’ which occasionally surfaces in my community I’m not sure that parental(family) fines will solve anything much. Likely make the worst cases worse still—unpaid and conflict-ridden not to mention even more belligerence. The hapless innocent bystander copping undeserved consequences. One case I can think of would be a classic both parents working scenario and the wagger unbeknown to them entirely responsible in their own right, so to say. Not a chance they’d pay.. or even that owing payment would moderate their behavior and/or return to school. So, a hard one to tackle.. have these methods not been tried before..?

    No, I think on the whole I’d prefer to read of it being a national (party, government) initiative or policy and for individuals named in their official capacity etc. Helps understanding.. for me at anyrate.

  21. Swampy 21

    The FC is a waste of bureacracy that Labour set up and turned into a political machine to support Labour policy. Don’t need that $200,000 conference. Don’t need a FC (or a CC really, especially when she is toadying to Labour). Oops, you are campainging a Labour Party policy, but a very small one because the big issue here is the steep rises in the cost of living Labour has presided over in recent years, like housing.

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