Saturday, August 28, 2010

ZenTiger Whanau and the Government

There was an article I read a week or so ago about Paula Bennett suggesting Iwi should step in and help out where children were removed from homes of Maori parents that were not able to be good parents.

Given that Maori child abuse statistics are disproportionally high, and that Maori view things through a perspective of race, and that whanua and iwi are defining characteristics of their social make-up, this all makes perfect sense.

Imagine my surprise then when some Maori spokesperson in the article rejected the idea out of hand, saying it's up to the cold hand of government to care for these kids.

This discussion continues in an article by Fran O'Sullivan: Maori have a duty to help their own.

I was alerted to this over at the DimPost: Someone else should do something about Maori Child Abuse where Daniel sees this as government abdicating its responsibility to look after child abuse victims, rather than the the Maori themselves abdicating responsibility.

I made a point on his post I think worth repeating: A social welfare minister that urges Maori to fully engage in doing something about Maori welfare seems eminently sensible. The aim should be to reduce the need, size and cost of the Ministry of Social Development, not grow it. Tied in with this is the idea that Government, in general, needs to think more about enabling service delivery than actually delivering it. It reduces direct government costs, puts money into community groups passionate about the problem and gets a greater sense of community ownership in outcomes.

My suggestion to the current issue, since money seems to be the arguing point (Paula saying MSD can't afford the costs, Maori saying they don't want to spend their own money) is to see if the Whanau Ora programme the Maori party were banging on about earlier this year could be the vehicle to assist related family members take on these abused children that the government deem necessary to remove from their homes. Maybe the government doesn't save any money in the short term if it supported this via Whanau Ora, but the outcomes might be better?

And why shouldn't Iwi in control of multi-million dollar assets consider paying out some dividends into Whanau Ora style programmes - a kind of "Public/Private partnership that underprivileged Maori could gain some benefit from? When exactly should Maori at the bottom of the Iwi food chain expect to reap the benefit of Waitangi Treaty Settlements? A bit of the old "put your money where your mouth is" gambit.

I also liken this to another issue currently in the news. The parents who chose to care for their severely disabled children often do so at great personal financial cost. They suffer this cost because they feel they will deliver a better level of service than simply handing their children over to state care. However, those that do give their children over to state care are clearly better off financially as those children get the funding for nursing services and 24 hour care as required.

(Link: Pay Parents of Disabled Adult Children and I can't find a recent article that shows the topic is still live. Live but not getting major press space perhaps.)

The government takes the view that giving these people money is a bad thing, and is resisting. With all the various things the government spends tax payer money on that are a huge waste, this is one area I see that would seem to deliver better outcomes for little effort. It seems eminently sensible for the government to provide more financial assistance to those families that struggle with the personal care, and it may well result in other parents that cannot make that step to give it a go rather than send them off to a government funded institution. Ultimately, it may reduce the overall cost and provide better outcomes.

One of the points Daniel was making was that it is unfair to expect Maori to clean up their mess, when we don't ask the same of Pakeha. The reason there is one of Maori's own making - they talk about the importance of whanau and iwi and sets the terms of conversation based on race and cultural identity. If these are the values we are meant to respect, then do we see those values being upheld in times of crisis? I also said over there that you get these suggestions when society views the crime of apparent hypocrisy more serious than the crime itself.

Of course, there may well be a lot of such initiatives already in progress by Iwi groups, and I'm just not on the information loop. That's the great thing about blogging with an opinion, there's often some-one that can come along and shed some further light on the matter.

3 comment(s):

I.M Fletcher said...

Tied to this somewhere is the practice of providing kids breakfast when they come to school. I saw a piece about it on TV, where the Salvation Army provides the fruit, and the govt provides toast and milk for I don't know how many decile one schools. Now, I'm not against helping kids at all, especially kids in need, but I had to question - are there really parents out there who don't have enough to be able to give their kids toast in the morning? Perhaps there are, but how many parents whose kids go to those schools will not bother to give their kids breakfast now because they're leaving it to the school to do it free.

It really says something about our society when the govt has to step in and give kids breakfast.

ZenTiger said...

Once we get used to the State providing breakfast for kids, most parents will accept this and the expectation will be that these breakfasts must be supplied.

And should the Minster for School Breakfasts suggest parents supply them...cue "abdication of government responsibility" posts from the left I suppose?

If kids need to be fed breakfast at school, then is the issue to fix hungry kids, or perhaps take a different approach entirely - go to the root cause so to speak?

Seán said...

A classic difference between left and right here. Danyl seems more than happy for the abdication of any form of responsibility. As does Ngati Kahu chairwoman Professor Margaret Mutu as Fran pointed out: "We can't. We don't have them [funding and resources - Tui billboard?]. It's a state responsibility. We know how bad it is. We know the helplessness and hopelessness of it, and that we are the only ones who can save ourselves. But we also need resources and the support of the state to do that."

Fran also points out that the difference between Maori in Pakeha in this area was minimal 25 years ago "It is indeed true that child-abuse deaths for Maori were on a par with the rest of New Zealand in the mid-1980s.". So indeed today we have a serious problem that requires a solution beyond the norm. And the problem seems cultural so I wouldn't give the govt much chance of fixing it. The solution must come from within and from those who are passionate about it (as you said ZT). The comment about enabling service delivery rather than the delivery itself was also on song.

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