Dr Michael Bassett

Dr Michael Bassett

Newspaper Columns

Lindsay Mitchell on Welfare reform


Wellington welfare commentator, Lindsay Mitchell is one of the best analytical minds dealing with welfare. I enclose a recent posting.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Debate has flared on the back of calls for sterilisation of the worst child abusers. When a problem is extreme, as is the incidence of child abuse in New Zealand, people sometimes understandably react with extreme ideas, welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell said today.

"However, there is now clear evidence from the US that a massive reduction in welfare dependence has coincided with a significant drop in child abuse. This is because children in two-parent working homes are the least likely to suffer neglect or abuse."

"Beginning in the 1970s, each decade the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has reported to Congress on the incidence of child abuse and neglect. Early this year their 4th report was published. It found a 32 percent decrease in the rate of abuse per 1,000 children since 1993."

"Here in New Zealand there is a clear overlap between clients of Work and Income and clients of CYF. In 1996 a study showed that children whose caregivers were beneficiaries were 4 times more likely to be subject to a CYF care and protection notification."

"Unfortunately some people - certainly not all people who find themselves on welfare - regard children as meal tickets. They are seen as both a way to increase income and avoid work. Such poorly motivated parents are the most likely to neglect or abuse their children. Abuse is also associated with very young mothers who are not emotionally equipped for the stress of parenting and also have multiple partners who may abuse them or their children. These potentially dangerous partners are additionally attracted by the steady benefit income."

"Until we start to acknowledge the role of welfare dependence in the incidence of child abuse we cannot begin to tackle the problem. The US faced up to the family dysfunctionality created by welfare, by introducing time limits and family caps. They removed the incentives that encouraged people to have children they were ill-prepared to care for. By requiring families to work wherever possible they restored structure, routine, motivation and purpose."

"There is good news here for New Zealand's social policy makers. We can lower the rate of child abuse by introducing common-sense welfare reforms. There is no need for extremism."

Lindsay Mitchell
Welfare Commentator
ph/fx 04 562 7944
mob 021 132 5968