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Vulnerable children 'not benefited by Social Security Bill'

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Barbara Smith, National Director of the Home Education Foundation (HEF) of New Zealand believes that the new Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill will not benefit New Zealand’s vulnerable children.

"In my book there are three kinds of children: vulnerable children, poor children, and other children," said Mrs Smith. "According to Paula Bennett, vulnerable children are ‘the thousands of children who are hurt, neglected, abused, and killed in New Zealand’."

Ms Bennett quotes the government’s White Paper for Vulnerable Children, with some disturbing statistics.

Between 7 and 10 children per year are killed by a carer. In 2010, 209 children under 15 were treated in hospital for assault-related injuries.

In the 2011-2012 financial year, CYF received 152,800 care and protection notifications. After investigations, CYF found 4,766 cases of neglect, 3,249 cases of physical abuse, and 12,114 cases of emotional abuse.

As of 30 June 2012, there were 3,884 children in out-of-home state care.

"With figures as high as this, why is Paula Bennett only looking for a 5% reduction in assults on children by 2017?" asks Mrs Smith. According to the Ministry of Social Development website, the Ministry is working on three results that will support vulnerable children. "These are a 98% early childhood education (ECE) attendance rate, a 95% immunisation rate, but only a 5% decrease in assaults on children!"

Poor children, says Mrs Smith, come from families on a benefit or a very low wage, who are often setting up a business. "These children’s parents don’t have a lot of money to spend on the children but they are loved, clean, well fed, and often educated at home-these children are not vulnerable! Their parents sacrifice for them and the government’s White Paper describes them just the same way as the vast majority of children."

According to the White Paper, "The vast majority of children enjoy loving and supportive homes and families. …Most parents put their children first, second, and third in their order of priorities. …Most of all, they want their children to be happy and fulfilled."

Mrs Smith asks, "So why does Paula Bennett want to use the Social Security Bill to compel all children of beneficiaries to attend ECE and school, enroll with a GP, and attend the Well Child/Tamariki Ora checks? Clearly this will have an effect on the thousands of children of beneficiaries whose parents are neither neglecting nor abusing them."

Mrs Smith emphasizes that the Supporting Vulnerable Children policy is aimed at enforcing ECE and immunisation for all children.

"Because my question now is, Who are the vulnerable children? I have several young children whom I home educate. In my case Paula Bennett would say that my children are vulnerable because they don’t attend ECE or school and they are not immunised.

"So now every child who doesn’t attend ECE or is not immunised is defined as vulnerable, and the government is trying to impose its health and educational goals on everyone while they ignore the truly vulnerable children who are being assaulted or killed.

"We have every reason to be concerned about the Social Security Bill."

Submissions to the Committee are due 1 November 2012.

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