The cockroach eating boy

Stuff reports:

Reports of a starving boy eating cockroaches, pensioners eating cat food and a soaring increase in demand for food parcels were raised in Parliament today as Labour accused the Government of turning its back on New Zealand’s most vulnerable citizens.

Labour’s deputy leader, Annette King, asked Prime Minister John Key what he intended doing to help people who couldn’t afford to buy food because of the rapid rise in the cost of living.

”Many low-income families can’t afford even a basic nutritious diet for their children…the Salvation Army in Whangarei has seen an increase of 90 percent in food parcels since the New Year and is now having to ration them to one per family,” she said.

Mr Key said he understood the cockroach case could be an issue of neglect rather than income support.

”The Government obviously supports not only a benefit-based system for those who find themselves in need but also significant hardship grants,” he said.

The Government spends $21.2 billion on social security and welfare. Yes, that is $21.2 billion. That is aI lot of money for a country of 4 million.

So if I was media, and I heard claims about a family so starving, that a six year old boy is forced to eat cockroaches for food, I would ask two questions before breathlessly reporting the claims.

  1. What is the family’s current income, and are they getting all the Government support they should
  2. What has that income been spent on, so there is no food for their six year old child?

The level of welfare that a “poor” family gets is exactly the same today, as it was under nine years of Helen Clark. No benefits have been cut, and they are adjusted for inflation. In fact National passed a law making the inflation adjustment mandatory.

NZ has a very generous welfare state at $21.2b. That is not to say that life isn’t very tough for families dependent on welfare – of course it is. But I would be amazed if it turns out that the reason that six year old was eating cockroaches was because WINZ had refused them assistance.

UPDATE: The BOP Times makes clear this is a case of neglect, not insufficient support. So shame on Labour for trying to blame the cost of living on this.

A Western Bay mother’s appalling neglect of her family reduced her 6-year-old son to eating cockroaches to survive.

This admission was made to Homes of Hope director Hilary Price.

The boy told how hungry he used to get before he and his siblings were removed from their mother by Child Youth and Family (CYF) and put into the care of Homes of Hope.

One day they got so hungry they went to look for food and found cockroaches. He then described eating the cockroaches: “Yeah, they were crunchy and juicy.”

Mrs Price did not doubt the boy was telling the truth because of his age and the manner in which he confided to her.

“I was appalled to hear that. There is no excuse when the person was receiving enough support to access the basics for her children.

Yet this is what Annette King asked the PM in Parliament:

What is he prepared to do to assist New Zealanders who are most in need, in light of reports over the weekend that a boy a was found eating cockroaches because he was starving and that the budgeting services are receiving reports of pensioners eating cat food as the cost of living keeps going up at a rapid rate?

So Labour knew this was a case of extreme parental neglect, and that the local welfare group had said the mother was receiving enough support for the basics – yet they still tried to portray this case as tied to the cost of living. Shame.

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