Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Nanny state in danger of being replaced by the bully state"

I have touched earlier this week on the series that the Taranki Daily News has been running on child poverty. Someone (thank you) sent me this link to today's paper. The article describes how beneficiary parents are turning up at budgeting advice simply to get the tick they need to stay eligible for their benefit. You can take a horse to water etc. But while I was looking at that I also noticed this editorial by Gordon Brown (ironic name) which really hits the nail on the head.

Worth reproducing in full:
What a chord Saturday's stories about Waitara Central school principal Sharren Read struck. It was all about the "poverty" that exists among those who go to her school and how she and other committed staff members deal with it. She told it pretty much as it is, which was refreshing in itself, but what a desperately sad story it was as she drew a picture of what was going on.

"Kids come to school simply to be fed. With help from Fonterra and Sanitarium for two days a week, which means the school fundraises to pay for the rest, children are given a free breakfast every morning. Lunch is also available to the neediest ones. "Some probably slept for a few hours amid the noise of partying, boozing and drugs. "They fight for a space to curl up on the mattress they are sharing with four siblings, sharing one urine-soiled blanket. They might get to school on a Monday because a teacher picked them up. Mum was still drunk from the Sunday night binge session."

There was more, much more sordid detail, but that's enough to go on with. You get the picture. Ms Read and other like-minded colleagues do their best to make a difference and they should be congratulated for what they do. Some of Ms Read's quotes are worth further examination. "We have one child that often won't be at school on a Monday and we're now aware it's because mum is coming down from the weekend and needs the kid to be home to help out," she said. It was revealed, which will be startling to many, that some families receive a benefit of about $750 a week. "The problem is the mismanagement of those funds." Let's start with that first quote.

Mum (no mention of a dad, of course) is presumably coming down from partying during the weekend. Booze, drugs and who knows what else is cited as part of the lifestyle. Therefore, the child has to stay home from school to "help out". That is a form of child abuse, nothing less. I wonder when mum was last prosecuted under the truancy laws. Anyone disagree with the answer: never? On to the second, and perhaps most revealing, quote in the article.

Ms Read courageously points the finger exactly where it belongs, at those self-indulgent, greedy parents who shamelessly squander money on themselves, rather than their children. It amounts to theft. Taxpayers gave that money to them to look after the children. As always, it is important to point out that not every recipient of government benefits does that. Some do a fine job under difficult circumstances and work hard to better themselves. The accurate, but unpalatable, message from Ms Read that some parents not only contribute to the "poverty" the children exist in, but are also the main reason for it, will have the apologists and do- gooders scrambling to attack the very notion that the noble oppressed classes could actually be the problem.

But Ms Read and deputy principal Emma Burleigh are the heroes in this debate, so rather than attack them and risk the wrath of right-minded people, no doubt those who know best will abuse columnists such as myself for merely having the temerity to agree with the sentiments expressed. As usual there will be personal observations, insults and much claiming of some self-created moral high ground from which their missives will be fired. The only thing missing will be facts and a willingness to debate the specific issues. Often the outraged letter writers will have a vested interest in prolonging the "poverty" state, but invariably that is never mentioned.

The nanny state is in danger of being replaced by the bully state, where those who don't toe the party line that everything is the state's fault and beneficiaries are victims, quickly become targeted with just one aim - to shut the dissenting voice down. One thing Ms Read said does require a rebuttal is "that shops that allow families with little to take on debt through hire- purchase are making the problem worse". It is not the shops' fault, it is the people who buy the big television sets when they can't afford them that are the problem. It is the same as the shoplifters and their apologists blaming retailers for displaying their goods in such an attractive manner that theft was inevitable. Wrong. For every action, there is a consequence and every one of us makes our decisions and are accountable for them. Simple as that.


Lucia Maria said...

No wonder so many children are abused if they are left to live in horrendous conditions such as what has been described here!

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Lucia Maria, Are you really so shocked? These circumstances are replicated all over the country. And they aren't recent developments either. When your children are older and you can find the time to, go and volunteer for a community organisation working with 'disadvantaged families'.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Sorry Lucia, I didn't mean to sound high-handed.

Anonymous said...

According to her some families get paid $750.00 a week. That must be between 40 and 50 grand a year. I earn around $600.00 per week but not always found working easy. I had to put up with an incredible amount of stress to just to keep my current job. I did it to retain a job long enough to get the skills I needed. I now have health problems from the stress. I am only saying this because I think some people on benefits think that everyone who has got a job has it easy.

I also know of a sickness beneficiary who receives $1,000.00 a week in care and benefits. He spends most of his benefit on booze. I don't begrude people such as him who is injured a benefit but I don't think they should get way above what the average wage is.

James said...

Anon...if YOU were the one in charge of what that guy was to receive each week would YOU be giving him a $1000?..while knowing he is doing what he does? That's the real problem with state reciprocal responsibility to the money provider from the beneficiary.

Return welfare to the private sector in the form of voluntary charitable donations and the difference will be as night from day.

Anonymous said...

Lindsay have you seen any of the comments on the Stuff/Taranaki news articles? Surprisingly a lot of people are crying out enough, scrap the payments, feed the kids & give the parents vouchers'. Few seem to be arguing for an increase in welfare! Perhaps finally New Zealanders are realising that welfare exacerbates rather than solves child poverty in NZ. Many also seem to recognise that it is child poverty NOT family poverty!

And don't worry about being high handed - I think you have the right to be.

Too few people understand the dark of NZ so are easily shocked which then adds to the demand for more welfare!

As for Gordon Brown - I too was amazed that I agreed with much of what he said! While it is heartbreaking it is encouraging that one corner of our tiny country is determined to keep this issue at the forefront & address it in a way that the politicians are too chicken to do.

Lucia Maria - most child abuse is not found in these extreme conditions. It is a far more insidious issue than that unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Anon...if YOU were the one in charge of what that guy was to receive each week would YOU be giving him a $1000?

I'd give him zero. zip. zilch. nada. 0

Same for every other bludger, from the oldest codger-bludger to the youngest kiddy-bludger.