The statistics and evidence clearly exists, New Zealand has a huge problem with domestic violence and a large number of our nation's children are suffering because of it. Green MP, Jan Logie, asked some very direct and searching questions of the Prime Minister yesterday regarding the lack of action or commitment from the government to address this issue and got some bumbling, evasive replies.
There are around 73,000 police callouts a year related to family violence and 70% of those callouts also involve incidents of child abuse. When it is obvious that we have a problem in this area Jan wanted the PM to explain why the Government had closed the Family Violence Unit in the Ministry of Social Development and cut funding to domestic violence education programmes. The PM responded by brushing aside the claim that domestic violence was a growing problem, "information we have show it's probably leveling off". The PM claimed that the Government had shown their commitment to dealing with the issues of family violence and vulnerable children through the Green Paper, a Health Select Committee inquiry and a ministerial advisory group looking at solutions to child poverty.
Jan also wanted the PM to explain why the Government wouldn't support Owen Glenn's call for a Commission of Inquiry into family violence, given that the Green Paper and various committees looking at vulnerable children didn't directly address the issue. Again the PM fobbed of the question by saying that by looking into issues around vulnerable children they had to also look at family violence. The only statement that I supported in his answers was the view that we already had a good deal of information on the issue and that Owen Glenn would be better to direct his money into practical solutions. Yet despite this statement the Government has only invested $6 million into dealing with vulnerable children while Owen Glenn, a private individual, is putting up $80 million.
We are now into the 4th year of this National Government and the issue of child poverty and vulnerable children has existed since they first took power. It is clearly obvious to all those who work with children or care about kids that, even while you have inquiries and committees looking at the issue, stuff still needs to be done. A child born into a violent dysfunctional family when National was first elected will now be four years old. For these children, and the families they struggle to survive in, little has practically been done to support and help them, in fact the reverse has occurred:
- Family Violence Unit closed.
- Domestic violence education programmes have funding cuts.
- Failures within CYFS where 71 children were abused in one year while under their care (30 of them by a CYFS approved care giver).
- Average families are now $11,000 worse off than in 2008 while families with an income of $250,000 are $12,000 better off.
- Early childhood education subsidies have been cut.
- Funding for 100% qualified EC teachers in centres cut to 80%.
- Costs for housing has increased, new homes are unaffordable and there is now a severe shortage of high quality low cost housing.
- Housing New Zealand has been rendered dysfunctional through funding cuts and loss of regional staff.
- Growing urban ghettos of low income communities full of substandard unhealthy homes.
- Vulnerable families that are dependent on ACC or DPB are finding they are under increasing pressure to justify their need for support and have to endure public criticisms implying that they are not deserving of that support.
- 61% of mothers of children under 12 months old are working, one of the highest levels of working mothers in the OECD yet increasing demands that more should seek work.
- Median income in New Zealand only $28,500
- Minimum wage increases not keeping up with CPI.
- The requirement for healthy food in schools is removed.
- The funding for the fruit in low decile schools has been cut.
- $155 million cut from youth services in 2012 budget.
- New Zealand now has one of the worst levels of child health and safety in the OECD.
The Government recognizes that there is an issue with domestic violence, child welfare and family poverty and they can only spare $6 million over four years to support vulnerable children and yet can find $200 million to pay roading consultants. There is no issue with a lack of available money just poor priorities, no real commitment and a huge lack of compassion.