Dr Michael Bassett

Dr Michael Bassett

Newspaper Columns


23/12/03 Foreshore and Seabed
09/12/03 Leadership
25/11/03 Legal Aid
11/11/03 CYF and the Government
28/10/03 National Leadership
14/10/03 United States - New Zealand
30/09/03 Child Poverty
16/09/03 The Courts
02/09/03 Racial Distinctions
19/08/03 ARC Rates and the Herald
05/08/03 Maurice Williamson
24/06/03 Maori definitions
10/06/03 Police Priorities
27/05/03 Waitangi Tribunal Troubles
13/05/03 Maori Seats
29/04/03 Child Obesity
15/04/03 Victory in Iraq
01/04/03 The War
18/03/03 New Zealand and the UN
06/03/03 Big Spending
18/02/03 Rural Health
04/02/03 Sir John Turei
21/01/03 Summer Journalism
07/01/03 Future Prospects
24/12/02 Local Government
10/12/02 Reflections on the US
26/11/02 Election aftermath
12/11/02 US mid-term elections
29/10/02 The Washington Sniper
15/10/02 The Democrats
01/10/02 American Elections
17/09/02 The American mood
03/09/02 Unions
20/08/02 The media
06/08/02 Immigration
29/07/02 Whatever Happened To National?
09/07/02 Inflation
26/06/02 MMP
12/06/02 Apologies
29/05/02 Dirty tricks?
15/05/02 Health
04/05/02 Don Brash
01/05/02 Welfare
17/04/02 National's Predicament
03/04/02 Self Help
20/03/02 John Banks
06/03/02 Health is a Killer
23/02/02 Jim Anderton
20/02/02 Luck
06/02/02 Treaty of Waitangi
23/01/02 GE
09/01/02 Floating dollar

CYF and the Government

So Child, Youth and Family will get another chief executive. The Government intends to spend an extra $100 million on the service, new staff will be recruited, and we are asked to believe that children and families in distress will now be better looked after. "Major management problems" within CYF, "critical information gaps" and "a culture resistant to change" will be fixed, resulting in more effective services. Keep your eyes on the heavens : a herd of pigs will soon fly past.

What we are dealing with is just another stage in the collapse of the State?s welfare services and the fatal conceit of politicians who think "the Government" can fix everything. Having created many of the problems that afflict CYF children, politicians want us to believe they now have a solution. The reality is that a runaway benefit system has been attacking the fence at the top of the cliff these last thirty years, destroying family values and the sense of parental responsibility for children that my generation took as axiomatic. Instead of trying to restore those values, the politicians are buying another ambulance to pick up those they first pushed from the top. The trouble is, the hole is getting bigger, and more fall through it at a faster rate. With one hand the State is pushing children over the cliff, while the other hand fumbles, or drops them at the bottom.

Worst of all, the public averts its gaze, many falling for brainless political assurances that changes at CYF will fix things. No wonder there?s low staff morale within the service!

Of course there have always been some unwanted and abused children, and there always will be. We need public services to help them. It?s more than a century since Minnie Dean, the Southland baby farmer, was hanged for murdering babies in her care. But the difficulties confronting today's children who are unlucky enough to be born at the bottom of the heap have reached epidemic proportions. The mess could be reduced if there were more determination to make parents accountable for their children. CYF?s problems could become manageable. When will we find a politician prepared to try?

The first thing that needs tackling is the excessive number of children born to those with little or no interest in their upbringing. "The rich get rich and the poor get children" used to have a degree of inevitability about it.

But it's ridiculous in an era of free contraception and relatively easy access to abortion. What we have done since the introduction of the DPB in 1973 is guarantee that the poor will have more children than they can cope with. The benefit system encourages people caught in the welfare poverty trap to breed, rather than limit their progeny. Educating and nurturing even one child in a single-parent household and let's be frank, that?s where most of those in danger come from is a big ask for any mother. Some take solace in multiple partners, especially if they increase the number of dependants, and hence the family's income. Too many men batten on to vulnerable women, and abuse their partner's children. Many kids start their lives in poverty, and will remain enmeshed in the net till death. The problems originate in dysfunctional homes and a benefit system that did so much to cause them. Violence, crime, and drug and alcohol abuse are those children?s constant companions. Over the past decade the problems have grown to such an extent that the Police can?t contain the daily fall-out from what the DPB, plus too-readily available sickness and unemployment benefits, are doing to our society. All people, even the stupid, respond to incentives.

Pay them to breed, then accept the responsibility to care for their offspring, and they'll oblige with more.

For people genuinely interested in our children?s welfare it?s time the fence at the top of the cliff was replaced with a requirement for more parental responsibility. Extra funding for CYF's ambulance services will cure nothing. The problem was caused in the first place by bleeding heart politicians who underestimated the damage they were doing to society. I voted for the DPB and several other benefits without enough thought. We encouraged people to shuck off their responsibilities on to society as a whole. The State cannot act effectively in loco parentis. Teachers and social workers know it only too well. How many more kids will die before today's politicians work it out?