Friday, September 04, 2009

Time to do nothing

Is the war on child abuse any different from the war on drugs or the war on poverty? They all feature escalating measures and escalating failure. Yet governments doggedly persist, doubtless justifying their actions internally by speculating that the statistics would be even worse if they did nothing (and that they need to be seen to be doing something or what rationale for their very existence?)

Pause for a moment. In the war on child abuse, what would a do nothing approach look like? Governments doing nothing sounds like a unthinkable abdication of responsibility. That is what you have been trained to think.

Fact; Most of the abuse goes on in beneficiary homes. Who or what created these homes? The bricks and mortar is often owned by the government and the occupants are paid to live by the government. These are homes created by social policy.

So the first do-nothing action could be to stop paying people to have babies they have no means of supporting. That would reduce the number of people doing just that, although some babies would still be born into untenable situations. Left to find their own solutions, people would sort out themselves who was best placed to care for and raise the child. That already goes on to a certain degree. Without any state benefits only the most motivated would be stepping forward. The most motivated would coincidentally also provide the best care.

Where children are still being subjected to abuse or neglect, the state then has a role in protecting that child's legal rights - but that's all.

Instead we get the Minister of do-something, as well as keeping current social policy settings unchanged, launching a whole new campaign against child abuse. She says she doesn't care what it costs. If it saves just one child it will be worth it (heard on TV last night). Of course Pharmac doesn't have the luxury of sitting around the table deciding which medicines to fund on this basis - just the Minister of do-something. Then she says it would appear a whole new generation of parents needs to relearn that shaking babies is dangerous. That means this exercise has to be repeated every generation because the state has to step in and do what the failed parent-educator (also a product of the state) doesn't.

You see. It's just a nauseatingly endless self-feeding cycle. Paula Bennett is like the mouse inside the tread wheel. Time to get off.


Berry said...

Very well put Linday. Unfortunately it won't make a shade of difference.

Anonymous said...

A better plan would perhaps be to check if new parents understand about shaking babies at some point early after the birth. If they aren't aware that you can't treat a baby like this then remove the child immediately...

Chuck Bird said...

I think you are probably right about a correlation between abuse children and people on benefits. Have you a statistics on this? Would this mainly apply to the DPB? would it apply to a married couple on the unemployment or sickness benefit?

I think a lot more genuine research needs to be done - not the sort of research that looks for "evidence" to support a theory.

Chuck Bird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lindsay Mitchell said...

Caution; although children in DPB homes are 3.1 times more likely to have a Care and Protection notification and 3.8 times more likely to have a Youth Justice notification, there are many thousands that do not. There is a huge but subtle difference between saying most child abuse victims are from beneficiary homes and most children from beneficiary homes will be victims. The overlap between CYF and Work and Income caseload is however significant. Work and Income case managers are now routinely trained in family violence and how to recognise it such is their opportunity to identify victims.(The above paper also deals with the rate for all beneficiary parents.)

Historically, when social researchers first started surveying the incidence of 'child abuse' (1960s) the strong correlation between unmarried mothers, especially Pacific and Maori, and child abuse was acknowledged and recorded. (Bronwyn Dalley, Family Matters and Deep and Dark Secrets.) During this time unmarried mothers were starting to become more prolific and dependent on the Emergency and then Emergency Domestic Purposes Benefits - the forerunners to the statutory as-of-right DPB instituted in 1973.


relates to the higher incidence of partner violence among beneficiary women and MSD just today made this statement;

"Children living in homes where there is intimate partner violence are seven times more likely to suffer physical abuse, and six times more likely to suffer incest."

Anonymous said...

Some people have a lot of kids for people who don't like them. Don't you think? You could be forgiven for thinking that they see their kids as cash cows.

But I don't think trying to weed out the useless parents by stopping the DPB benefit will work. They would still have kids. Sure others some would get a reality check from seeing others misery, but are you willing to standby and watch the mothers who can't afford to keep their kids suffering, or kids living in poverty if their parents don't want to give them up?


Lindsay Mitchell said...

Gloria, You think there are people who treat children as cash cows but who wouldn't give them up if there was no benefit? There is a contradiction there.

Before the DPB single mothers got some assistance from the state but they worked as well. And remember many more children were adopted out. But what most people fail to consider is women today are in a vastly different position from where they were in the 50s and 60s. Better educated (or with better educational opportunities at least), making up half the workforce and able to control their fertility. Society is far better positioned to cope without the DPB (as it stands).

If I really thought the DPB had made life better for children I wouldn't be so opposed to it. But I don't and I am not willing to stand by and say nothing.

Anonymous said...

It isn't a contradiction at all, because not everyone receiving the DBP fall into the same category. For instance a number of parents keep their DPB money for themselves and spend it on partying, pokies, fast food. However not all DPB parents do this. (Which makes me think perhaps parents on the DPB should be audited.) But more blatant abuses are ignored so it is unlikely the current administration would make people be more accountable for how they spend their benefit .

I think the vast majority of woman on the DPB who can work do, even if it is part-time. If you stopped the benefit these people would be able to find full-time work but it is a big responsiblity for a parent who has say three kids and is working full-time. I imagine that there would be massive opposition to this.

I agree with you with regards to the dysfunctional parents. I think many of these parents wouldn't have as children if the benefit wasn't available. But trying to make some people be responsible is impossible and there would still misguided noodles who decide they want to keep their kids even though they are broke, unemployable and uneducated. This is what I meant when I referred to seeing children suffer in my previous comment. If there was no assistance some kids would suffer and the opposition would be like a sonic boom.

Still I think the government has underestimated the resistance to its current policies; trying to help this group, some people just don't want to be helped.


Lindsay Mitchell said...

Gloria, Only 17 percent of the 104,400 people currently on the DPB work, or worked at some time in the past year.

You can work part-time now and get WFF that takes your income over a benefit level. Yet half of those women still not working have children 5 or older.

Of course the people on DPB are a various lot. Some we need not worry greatly about. They are using the DPB as it was intended - a stop gap. And time-limited welfare would serve that purpose.

But leaving it unchanged is just not an option to me. And removing the incentive for young girls to choose it as a long-term lifestyle is crucial.

Anonymous said...

I see what your saying and think you raise some very valid issues. The fact that you are raising these issues in a public forum must be adding to the understanding of harms of 'welfarism.'

I guess though the bottom line for me is that we live in a country that is too altruistic to see people reap the 'benefits' of their own mistakes.


Lindsay Mitchell said...

"I guess though the bottom line for me is that we live in a country that is too altruistic to see people reap the 'benefits' of their own mistakes."

You are right.

And the more we pick up after their mistakes, the more we will have to pick up.....

Anonymous said...

The obvious thing to "do nothing" would be terminate all benefit payments.

Within a week, there could be no beneficiary mums having kids, no beneficiaries committing crimes.. no beneficiaries at all

And the best bit is: this doesn't even need a law change. An order in council to set benefit levels to zero is all it takes.

are you willing to standby and watch the mothers who can't afford to keep their kids suffering, or kids living in poverty if their parents don't want to give them up?

Absolutely. I want to change New Zealand, to reward productivity, to stop punishing people who are successful.

The brutal answer is that we already "stand by and watch kids suffering" and we have more "kids living in poverty" than almost every other OCED country. That is the fact. The question is whether stopping benefits will make things better or worse.

Well as lindsay would say - the facts are irrefutable. Stopping benefits cannot make it worse, but will make it better, and will certainly let us reduce say corporate taxes to zero - making things much better for everyone who is productive!