Helping to help selves

Prime Minister John Key has asked officials to come up with fresh ideas to tackle the issue of child poverty.

. . . Key’s genius is to sense developing problems, define what needs to be done and then act decisively to cauterise them. No better example is the call he has made this week for the DPMC, Treasury and other departments to delve into the issue of child poverty, and come up with fresh advice on how to wrap services into meeting the needs of those families who are struggling.

Left to its own, child poverty could lead to the evolution of a frustrated under-class and long-term a divided society. Key is going to make sure the issue is dealt to and doesn’t become a political headache. He doesn’t belong to the school which believes throwing more money at the problem is the solution. There’s a fundamental tension between ensuring sufficient welfare assistance is available and ensuring incentives to get into work are strong enough. Two out of five children said to be in poverty are in homes where one parent at least is in work.

Working for Families and other welfare measures are tactical measures: the overall strategy lies in more jobs, and, as Key sees it, in upskilling those who lack the skills for the opportunities opening up. Key argues the million NZers who voted for National on Saturday are caring people who will want to see the Govt understands the issue and is working its way through it. But he says those million people will also want to see those to whom assistance is targeted helping themselves. . .

Children shouldn’t be punished for poor decisions their parents make but nor should parents be paid, or compensated, for abrogating their responsibilities.

Only the hardest of hearts would begrudge assistance to the most vulnerable.

But most people work hard for their money and expect that those their taxes help, help themselves if and when they are able to.

Simply throwing money at the problem would entrench dependency and the social and economic issues that follow.

10 Responses to Helping to help selves

  1. Gravedodger says:

    Why do intelligent people allow shallow soundbite spinners to define the debate.
    There is absolutely no “poverty” in this country, as it exists in too many third world nations
    What we have allowed the dwellers in the shallow puddles of carparks to label Child Poverty, is a situation of want/need as measured against so called wealth.
    In my other life of the last decade and a half I have encountered too many instances where children are in need of better nutrition, warmth, love and care and too often it is, if not perpetrated, certainly aggravated by a total dearth of functional ability of the so called responsible adults.
    Eighty years of an ever burgeoning welfare state has solved very little but as a mechanism to absolve responsible adults it has been a boon and if throwing more cash is the answer the question is monumentally stupid.

    In 1935 when the Savage Government was turned to by a population with a significant proportion in serious want from an economy that was failing to deliver.
    A deep and seemingly intractable depression had Fathers removed from the family home to work in what are now seen as appalling conditions of dangerous toil to qualify for “relief assistance”.
    Hessian sugar bags as a basis for apparel, a diet totally incomprehensible in these times, health and welfare seriously threatening all and in particular the aged, the young and increasingly the infirm as their numbers grew out of the deficit of need sufficiency.

    I did not have to endure the deprivations of The Great Depression but those who nurtured me and shaped so much of my philosophical awareness had every act and decision made in the shadow of such deprivations that tragedy born of ignorance delivered.
    My Dad passed in the 1990s and even in his last year was completely obsessed by the fact his capital would be extinguished as he approached one hundred years on the planet.
    When he and my Mum went to a rest home complex c1990 the first week in the month was paid from investment income and the next two with the pension the fourth week came out of a diminishing capital fund and we had no success in getting the message through to him that the chap in the next unit was enjoying exactly the same care and conditions as he was and the state was funding him 100%.

    Please please find a better descriptive for children being abused by selfish lazy indulgent parents who instead of facing their responsibilities allow political manipulators to keep them in their state of need as tools in a workshop increasingly in danger of collapse.

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  2. Ray says:

    Perfectly stated, GD.
    Cue DK in 3…2…1…

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  3. TraceyS says:

    Throwing money at the problem will not help much if the root causes are not being addressed. I need to make my bias clear that education and opportunity, together, are the only permanent way out of poverty.

    The left’s call for more specialist teachers for children with learning difficulties is a good example of throwing money. To anyone who feels like I do about education, it may intuitively seem like the correct response, but then we see research such as this starting to come through indicating, for example, that Panadol during pregnancy increases the risk of a child having ADHD: http://health.msn.co.nz/article.aspx?id=8911345. There are likely to be other contributing factors as well.

    Using taxpayer funds to employ more teachers is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff and will never, ever, be enough because what many of these kids really need is one-on-one support. There will never be enough money to provide that for all the kids who need it and therefore there will always be disadvantage. So, in pursuit of success, we have no choice but to deal with the causes rather than the effects. (The research does not say that Panadol in pregnancy causes ADHD. But if warnings on boxes and education could reduce the incidence of it then that should be explored).

    In my experience, very few parents deliberately abrogate their parenting responsibilities. They usually are at their wits end when they do. Child behaviour that they can’t cope with can quickly exhaust some people’s resources – especially when there’s not much in their toolbox to begin with in terms of both quantifiable resources and social ones.

    So when a government is looking to address poverty, I hope they don’t just address quantifiable poverty. They also need to address social poverty to the same degree. That will not be easy to do. But it must be done. Thinking back to my own childhood at least half of the issues I faced were caused by social deprivations over financial poverty. Luckily I didn’t have ADHD, quite the opposite in fact, and was able to use that concentration to fill my toolbox with lots of social capital which I then set about converting into the other kind. Show me a person who has escaped poverty by any other means and I’ll be very surprised.

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  4. Paranormal says:

    Well said GD.

    TraceyS, yes, but at it’s heart the only way out of poverty is hard work. The opportunity presents itself to those that work to get it, whether that is through education or other endeavour. As a result I always chuckle to myself that those on the left advocating the ‘child poverty’ meme are really advocating child labour. Sort of appropriate when you hear their Victorian rhetoric.

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  5. TraceyS says:

    “The opportunity presents itself to those that work to get it”

    Not always. I worked hard at school but was still overlooked when teachers were dishing out career encouragement. When I did well, I remember getting filthy looks from a science teacher whose pet students I had outperformed (all of them from ‘better’ homes). Never was university ever discussed with me as an option. I was in a certain box. If you start out in that box then you’ve first got to break down the side of it before even knowing that the opportunities exist. Starting out in the right box seems much easier – the opportunities are dropped right in.

    Breaking out of the box does require hard work but more than that it requires concentration, determination and strategy. But even more important is a sense of ‘knowing’ that there is something better on the outside.

    I don’t get your comment about “child labour”.

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  6. Paranormal says:

    Tracey, the left suggest children are ‘poor’ rather than their parents/households in order to win emotional soundbite appeal. As the only way out of poverty is hard work, they must be advocating child labour.

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  7. TraceyS says:

    Where that falls down is saying the only way out of poverty is hard work. It is not. Plenty of people work extremely hard all their lives and are still relatively poor as a result. Contrastingly, some people make their way out of poverty by being clever, fast, or from good planning. They might work hard as well, however, the catalyst is not hard work but learning how the world works and using that to formulate an escape from deprivation.

    Children from poor families can work hard without being ‘child labour’. They can work hard at school – and they often do. But if that hard work doesn’t lead the into further education, and if further education doesn’t lead to opportunities, then they will probably be no better off than the families they grew up in.

    I have nothing against hard work. And hard work combined with education and opportunity is certainly a winning combination. However, I consider that smart choices are more important than hard work as a way out of poverty.

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  8. Paranormal says:

    Perhaps you are taking too literal a meaning from ‘hard work’.

    I say hard work as opposed to not working. That hard work could take any form is undisputed. Making smart choices will invariably include a commitment or investment of some sort. Hard work also includes education whether secondary or tertiary.

    You note yourself that working a lifetime and still being poor – is a relative judgment. The MSD has reported on the fact that outcomes from the working poor are far better than from the benefit poor. But at the end the issue is not poverty but deprivation.

    There is no poverty in New Zealand. There is no shortage of money – however there is still deprivation. The deprivation comes from the incentives in the welfare system. I’d cue in Andrei here to talk about the real poverty is in human spirit – a poverty of aspiration.

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  9. TraceyS says:

    “real poverty is in human spirit – a poverty of aspiration”

    Indeed. But there are many other contributors to that dispiritment other than the welfare system.

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  10. Paranormal says:

    There are indeed TraceyS, But the welfare system is something that politicians have direct control over. It is s system that incentivises poor decision making and creates inter-generational poverty.

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