Van Beynen on poverty


Guess what? Fixing in New Zealand is not that hard.

Let’s call it the John Minto solution. First, every family with less than a certain income will be brought up to a minimum stipend based on what is required for the family to live comfortably in their location.

If they can’t find good quality accommodation at a reasonable price, maybe because they have a bad credit record or a record of smashing up their previous flats, then the state will provide them with a nice place to live in a nice street at a modest rent.

 If they have harmful addictions, those will receive concentrated and long term attention. However long it takes. Tendencies towards crime and violence will be met with counselling and psychiatric help. Any health, including mental health, issues will receive the best specialist care and they will receive 24hr life coaching and advice from trained support staff. Children will receive extra tuition and any proclivities towards anti-social behaviour will be handled at a best practice standard.
Cost? Not relevant.
You might need a top tax rate of 90% in the dollar, but hey.

Meanwhile back in the real world, inhabited by people like Minister of Police Judith Collins, things are a bit different. This week she blamed bad parenting as a major factor in crime.

Of course the media chased down all the hand wringers and bleeding hearts, who have never had to make a hard decision about tax payer dollars, to get the predictable reproof.

It’s hard to know where the condemnation was going but it seemed to suggest that parenting wasn’t much of factor in child poverty which wasn’t what Collins was saying at all.

Just to recap.   

At the Police Association conference in Wellington, Collins was asked what the Government was doing about child poverty because a lot of gang members came from poor backgrounds.

Judith Collins said money was available for those that needed it and money was not the only the problem.

“It’s not that, it’s people who don’t look after their children, that’s the problem.

“And they can’t look after their children in many cases because they don’t know how to look after their children or even think they should look after their children.

“I see a poverty of ideas, a poverty of parental responsibility, a poverty of love, a poverty of caring.”

I don’t need to do any of National’s ceaseless polling to know what middle New Zealand thinks of that because it’s obvious. Middle New Zealand is going to agree with Collins.

I loathe smug, silver-spoon, born-to-rule National Party people as much as I despise the bleeding heart, champagne socialist brigade but Collins was on the button when she said lack of money wasn’t the real cause of crime.

Talk to any cop or social worker and you will hear that bad parenting is the main reason for delinquency and youth crime.

Sadly this is true.

Lots of people in New Zealand are hard-up. They might be going from benefit day to benefit day or pay packet to pay packet, but that doesn’t mean their children go to school without a lunch and don’t get care and affection.

All the longitudinal studies show some people are predisposed to not getting along in their communities. In other words some are born awful but most achieve awfulness through their upbringing. Add a couple of ingredients like poor parenting, a chaotic household, moving around a lot and Mum having lots of boyfriends and you have the recipe for disaster.

That’s not to say lack of money has no influence on the already dysfunctional family. It will cause stress and stress causes some people to go off the rails.

But to attack Collins for stating the bleeding obvious is to absolve people of responsibility and divert attention from the real problem.

Of course there will be hard-up families with both parents working hard and not smoking or drinking and going to church on Sundays. There’s probably about two of them in the whole country. And don’t forget they get Working for Families benefits and accommodation supplements. Their children get free education, no-one is going to charge them for hospital visits and medical treatment if required and they might be eligible for other benefits as well.

They might be poor compared to a wealthy doctor living in Remuera in Auckland but on a world poverty scale they are in clover.

In the last year we spent $53 billion assisting poorer families with welfare, and providing free healthcare and education.

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