Family First wrong | The Jackal

18 Jun 2013

Family First wrong

Yesterday, Voxy reported:

Family First NZ says that six years since the anti-smacking law was passed in a supposed effort to lower our child abuse rates, it has been confirmed as a spectacular failure based on flawed ideology.

Actually, the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 (PDF) is likely to be the main reason children requiring the care of the Chief Executive reduced by 18 per cent (from 6136 cases to 5020) between 2008 and 2011. Likewise, children being placed in CYF's care reduced by 14 per cent (from 4522 placements to 3885) in the same time period.

The amendment came into effect in June 2007, and the only plausible explanation for such a dramatic reduction is that the law change has in fact worked.

On Monday, the Prime Minster was interviewed on Breakfast TV about the issue:

But there were about 6000 children who were in um Child Youth and Family care, so essentially looked after by a foster parent or more likely than not last year in which there were 23 cases of abuse. So we do have to say most foster parents do a fantastic job of looking after children, some are not.

If Key's figures are correct, it's astounding that there's been such a huge increase of children requiring the states assistance. From 5020 in 2011 to "about 6000" in 2012 is an astronomical jump in just one year. So what's the reason for this increase?

Family First is also rubbishing claims by Prime Minister John Key that the increased numbers of child abuse simply reflect an increase in reporting.

Thankfully Mandatory reporting for Police and DHB's was implemented in 2009, so we would expect to see an increase in children being placed in care in the following two years if there was previously widespread underreporting.

Personally I think Key and Family First are both wrong! For Key to be correct, underreporting would have to be extensive, which is clearly not the case. The conservative Christian group is simply wrong! There has been four years of steady decline in severe cases of abuse requiring the states intervention since the law was amended.

In my opinion, that initial decline in children being referred to CYF's care because of the law change has now been surpassed by the degradation the neoliberal agenda has caused society. With reduced wages, less services and a harsher welfare regime, more people are stressed, and this sometimes results in them taking it out on their children.

It would help the debate immensely if those concerned with the welfare of children got their facts straight. With approximately 15 per cent of children in New Zealand at risk of abuse, and over 80,000 children witnessing family violence each year, this is something we simply cannot get wrong.