Welfare needs health warning

Quote of the week:

Welfare benefits should carry a warning label: “Danger: Taking a benefit may endanger your children.”

That’s because benefit-supported children are six times more likely to be abused or neglected. They are 14 times more likely to be known to Youth Justice. And the longer the time on a benefit, the worse it gets.

Children in households benefit-dependent for nine or more years are 13 times more likely to be abused. And 29 times more likely to be known to Youth Justice.

These are government statistics. They are derived from the Ministry of Social Development’s cohort study titled Children’s Contact with MSD Services. Rodney Hide.

Lindsay Mitchell has also written of the problem:

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has released statistical information that details the overlap between children’s contact with the benefit system, and care and protection or youth justice services.

Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell is welcoming this overdue research. “The last time MSD conducted a similar exercise was 1996 so an update was well overdue. This time the Ministry has followed the 1993 birth cohort to age 17 to explore levels of contact.

Unfortunately, the data is presented in a way that downplays the risks. The benefit cohort is only ever compared to the overall cohort as opposed to the non-benefit  cohort. This produces a finding  that the benefit cohort had a likelihood of contact with CYF that was,  ‘1.5 times that for the overall cohort.’  However, if the non-benefit cohort was the comparison group, the likelihood would rise to 3.4 times.

When MSD examines children on a benefit for 9 or more years who have experienced a substantiated finding of abuse or neglect, they describe the risk as only three times greater than the total population cohort. Again, if this benefit cohort was compared to the non benefit group the increased likelihood rises to nearly 13 times greater.” . . .

Benefits have their place as a safety net for people in temporary need and the few who will never be able to look after themselves.

But welfare can become a trap for people who could, with help, be independent and it’s not just them but their children who are worse off because of that.

A compassionate government isn’t one which fosters dependence, it’s one which helps people from welfare to work, for their sakes and their children’s sakes.

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