Bennett Bold or Just Bluff & Bluster?
This Government is very good at setting targets and making strong demands of those involved in working with the most vulnerable in our society. Sadly, passing legislation and drawing lines in the sand is only the first step and properly resourcing those who have to do the work is equally important. Paula Bennett's tough stance on child abuse hit a raw nerve but enacting her proposals may actually make things worse and not address the real causes.
I am worried that more harm will be done to hundreds of vulnerable children who will be removed from one dysfunctional situation and be placed in a worse one. Children placed in the care of the state have often had to endure more abuse than what they experienced in their own home. There are also genuine concerns about potential breaches of civil rights and situations where people will have to prove their innocence, rather than have guilt established, after unsubstantiated charges of child abuse.
I am very aware that there is a shortage of good carers and many of our social workers are over worked and not fully trained. This Government has not got a good track recording in ensuring that those charged with the extra work have the capacity to do it. I am also not sure where these "families for life" will come from given the huge shortages of suitable foster homes and the common occurrence of children shifting through multiple carers.
This Government has also not got a good record for supporting the vulnerable who have already been identified. The Government has closed most of our residential schools and placed children with challenging behaviours back into mainstream schools. I have already heard of numerous schools that have been forced to take on young people without suitable support and there have been unfortunate consequences. Rather than increase numbers of Special Education staff to deal with an increased case load, the $25 million cut to the Ministry of Education budget has produced less.
Poverty is seen as a contributing factor for many dysfunctional families, where unusual hours of work and lack of money adds extra stress onto already struggling parents. When the median family income is dropping we will just see more cases of neglect.
Alcohol is another huge contributing factor to child abuse and yet this Government backed away from the opportunity to pass effective law to deal with it. Victim support is also badly underfunded, especially in the area of rape crisis.
Paula Bennett is indeed talking tough but I fear that, yet again, we are hearing tough words but little real commitment to doing things well.