Because most New Zealanders are not convinced that New Zealand has a child poverty problem. We have a piss-poor-parenting problem, yes. We don’t have an inadequacy of resources.
Which is where the Children’s Commissioner and the liberal lobbyists have it all wrong. They quote statistics about kids going to school hungry, about inadequate rentals, about hospitalisations and woeful child dental care, as if no argument is required.
Look at those poor kids, they declare. There’s the proof of child poverty.
No, it isn’t. It’s proof that thousands of Kiwi parents are making bad choices about their priorities. And that the welfare and community organisations that are supposed to be supporting them . . . aren’t.
Indeed, it’s a dual failure. The parents aren’t up to their role and the agencies are ineffective with their assistance. And that includes churches and other social agencies that prefer to lobby for more money, rather than use their funding appropriately.
While it is not as black and white as Michael paints it, he is largely right.
However hard any family life might be – however tough the financial circumstances – there is no parental excuse that allows a child to go to school hungry. Look into any one of those homes and you will find two conspicuous absences.
First, an inability to put the kids first. A belief that alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, partying, the church tithe are all – somehow – more important than the kids.
The inability of a generation of social workers and social agencies to make any impact upon those priorities is their greatest failure. There is enough government assistance, there is enough private philanthropy, there is enough knowledge.
But what’s the argument of so-called “child poverty advocates”? Give the parents more money. Which they’ll misuse, in exactly the same way that they’re doing now. Their internal priorities still won’t change.
We in fact have a very generous welfare system. The combination of direct benefits, working for families payments, accommodation subsidies, and early childhood education subsidies is considerable.