- Date published:
11:50 am, September 30th, 2023 - 38 comments
Categories: child abuse, child welfare, crime, Economy, labour, national, poverty, prisons, same old national, Social issues - Tags:
This week National’s cruel beneficiary bashing inclinations came to the fore.
It announced a three strike styled sanction regime on beneficiaries who break new rules.
Possible repercussions include money management by the use of electronic cards and benefit reductions.
To add to this National is changing the way that benefits are calculated. One of the things that Labour has done is to index benefits to average wage increases.
Previously benefits, apart from superannuation were indexed to the rate of inflation. As society changes and gets more complex this means that beneficiaries gradually become worse off.
National chose to not upset a core part of its voter base, superannuants, by not applying the change to them.
But to all other beneficiaries it has decided to undo one policy that the Children’s Commissioner urged the Government to adopt, and it is a policy that has made a significant contribution to the 77,000 fewer kids living in poverty that this Government has achieved.
The savings over four years is in the vicinity of $2 billion. National’s proposed restoration of interest deductibility for landlords will, according to its estimates cost about the same. Fancy taking money off the poorest of us to give more money to landlords.
If you want to get an appreciation how cruel and heartless National’s announcements are can I urge you to read this piece by John Campbell.
He mentions Professor Richie Poulton who has been the director of the Dunedin Longitudinal Study since 2000 and who was asked about what was the most important thing for a happy and healthy life.
From Campbell’s article:
I asked Professor Poulton whether the study has shown if there’s one thing in childhood, perhaps above all others, that steepens the climb to a healthy and happy adult life?
“Poverty,” he said.
“What was most important about that original finding,” Richie Poulton told me, “was that you can’t really undo what happens during childhood. So the experience of intense or regular poverty is long lasting.”
Anyone familiar with Richie Poulton knows his capacity to describe the science of Dunedin’s longitudinal study in terms that are richly human. But on that August afternoon, he was making it political, too.
“This is where my research enters the personal fray,” he said. “This election is not going to be focused on children in poverty, because we’re bored of that. We’re tired of that. We’re sick of that. We’ve tried that, haven’t we? Have we tried that?
Yet, what do we need to address really importantly, really importantly? he asked, as if out beyond the waves now, looking back to a fading shore. And he answered his own question with a single word. “Poverty.”
Campbell then draws a link between crime and poverty that is that strong and that clear that it is appalling that National do not get it.
In December 2016, Richie Poulton and the Dunedin Study put out a media release headlined: CHILDHOOD DISADVANTAGE STRONGLY PREDICTS COSTLY ADULT LIFE-COURSE OUTCOMES. (The caps were theirs, but they feel appropriate.)
The study has been responsible for so many pieces of work – so many other studies. But this one feels so important, now.
The findings from the Dunedin study’s data had been published in Nature Human Behaviour.
Read this. Please.
“We integrated multiple nationwide administrative databases and electronic medical records with the four-decade-long Dunedin birth cohort study to test child-to-adult prediction in a different way, using a population-segmentation approach. A segment comprising 22% of the cohort accounted for 36% of the cohort’s injury insurance claims; 40% of excess obese kilograms; 54% of cigarettes smoked; 57% of hospital nights; 66% of welfare benefits; 77% of fatherless child-rearing; 78% of prescription fills; and 81% of criminal convictions.”
Twenty-two percent of the cohort – 81 percent of criminal convictions.
And if experiencing “intense or regular poverty” in childhood increases likelihood of criminality later in life, we may actually have achieved the remarkable perversity of having economic policies that create the disadvantage we then spend election campaigns arguing over how best to punish the consequences of.
I can speak with quite a unique perspective. I have been a lawyer for young offenders out west since the 1980s. I am at the stage now where I fairly regularly act for the children of earlier clients. I have the dubious distinction of having acted for a number of ram raiders. I know these kids and I know their parents. I have read the reports on them and I have discussed with them what has happened and why it happened.
There are a number of contributions to what has caused them to act in the way they have but poverty is the overwhelming common feature. It has badly affected their parents and their ability to be parents. It badly affects the kids themselves. Through inadequate housing and income it affects their education, their health, their confidence and their view of their place in the world.
Campbell and Poulton are right. If you want to do something about crime do something about poverty.
National’s move, to make beneficiaries poorer and at the same time to increase funding for prisons is logical but callous. It does not need to be this way. If you want to avoid the dystopian future offered by National then vote to keep them out.
And I understand that progressives are disappointed with Labour for not having done enough. But 77,000 fewer kids in poverty is something to celebrate not belittle.
And in a multitude of areas Labour has worked to improve the plight of those affected by poverty, especially the poor.
There are a whole lot of kids out there whose futures are riding on this election. Vote wisely.