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Dr Muriel Newman

Addressing Child Abuse

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Last week, the Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley launched the new vulnerable children’s service to replace the Child Youth and Family agency. She said, “We have to put our most vulnerable children and young people at the heart of everything we do. And we have to do everything we can to give them a safe, stable and loving home so they can live happy, successful lives. It’s what they’ve asked for, and it’s the very least they deserve.”

With long term benefit dependent sole parenthood – and fatherlessness – recognised as major risk factors in child abuse, while you can’t doubt the Minister’s sincerity, she is facing an uphill battle unless these other laws that are contributing to the problem are changed as well.

In 2011, Robert Rector, a Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, outlined the dangers of fatherlessness. He found that in the US, compared with children from married families, children from homes without fathers were twice as likely, to be arrested for a juvenile crime, to be treated for emotional and behavioural problems, to be suspended or expelled from school, and a third more likely to drop out of school. The disadvantage persists into adulthood, with children from broken homes being three times more likely to end up in jail by the time they reach the age of 30, and girls more than twice as likely to become sole parents.

In 1998, then Governor General, Sir Michael Hardie Boys, described the situation in New Zealand: “Fatherless families are more likely to give rise… to the risks of being abused, of being emotionally, even physically scarred, of dropping out of school, of becoming pregnant, of living on the streets, of being hooked on alcohol or drugs, of being caught up in gangs, in crime, of being unemployable, of having no ambition, no vision, no hope, at risk of handing down hopelessness to the next generation, at risk of suicide.”

Until 1960, around 95 percent of all New Zealand births were to married parents, and child abuse rates were low. But, largely as a result of social policy law changes over the years, by 2009 the number of births to married parents had dropped to 51.5 percent – and as it continues to decline, so too the rate of child abuse continues to grow.

In 2015, the Minister for Social Development established an ‘Expert Panel’ to examine the growing child abuse crisis and propose some options for reform. They found that children who had been taken into state care suffered a multitude of adverse outcomes, with almost 70 percent being benefit dependent and perpetuating the cycle by age 21. “Women with some level of childhood contact with the agency were nearly three times more likely to be parents before the age of 25, and as parents were three times more likely to have a child referred to CYF.”

They made it clear that State interventions were not keeping children safe. “Within 18 months of exiting care, three out of every 10 children and young people were re-notified to CYF and 15 percent were found to have suffered further abuse. Those who returned home or remained in family or whanau care were more likely to experience repeat abuse, with almost one-quarter of children who returned to their parents, and 10 percent of those in kin or whanau placements, experiencing further maltreatment. By contrast, re-abuse rates are low at one percent for those exiting care in non-kin or non-whanau placements.”

With Maori over-represented in the sole parents benefit statistics, their children feature disproportionately in the negative child abuse statistics. “While 30 percent of all children born in New Zealand are Maori, 57 per cent of children seen by CYF by the time they are aged five are Maori. Maori children are nearly four times more likely to have a parent who was involved with CYF as a child and four times more likely to have a mother who has been dependent on a benefit. The over representation of Maori children increases the further they become involved in the system with six out of every 10 children in care are Maori children.”

Given the startling statistics, the obvious question is, if National is genuine in their desire to make things safer for vulnerable children, why haven’t they done more to reduce sole parent welfare dependency?

When National embarked on the overhaul of the social welfare system in 2012, one of the major recommendations made by the Welfare Working Group, the Government’s expert advisory group set up to lead the reforms, was to replace the stand-alone sole parent benefit with assistance based on work. Since their research had found clear evidence that children do much better in families supported by work – and with most other countries providing support to sole parents through work-related benefits – that’s the approach they recommended.

In spite of their research also showing that in 2009, one in four sole parents on a benefit had given birth to more children, the Government decided against strong measures and left Sole Parent Support as a stand-alone benefit. They were no doubt afraid of getting offside with the vocal feminist lobby, which regards the sole parent benefit as a major policy achievement, since it enables woman to bring up children without the need to rely on men.

This ideological view continues to be held in spite of the glaring evidence that mothers are being trapped by the benefit into a life of dependency, that puts them and their children at risk of serious disadvantage and abuse.

Thanks to the feminists, the sole parent benefit also funds unstable, violent and abusive women – many with chronic addictions – to have and raise children on their own. Many of their children will be referred to child protection services; some will be taken into state care; others will be killed.

If the government is really committed to reducing the horrendous child abuse problem, they must be prepared to fight the ideological war and do what is right to bring about positive changes for mothers and their children.

While that ultimately, should involve the structural reform of the benefit system, to replace the sole parent benefit with support based on work, if National is not prepared to take that step, then maybe the reforms introduced for teenage parents might provide a way forward.

When Youth Parent Payments were introduced in 2012, they included ‘income management’. That meant that beneficiaries no longer had access to their full benefit – instead, their bills were paid directly, grocery money was only available through a payment card which excluded non essentials like cigarettes or alcohol, and the only discretionary spending they had access to was up to $50 a week.

According to those working in the field, it is these measures that are largely responsible for the rate of teenage pregnancy dropping by half – and continuing to fall.

With that in mind, if ‘income management’ was adjusted for adult needs and applied to Sole Parent Support as a priority, it is likely to have a similar effect in encouraging recipients to get a job and leave the system.

Because with entrenched sole parent welfare dependency at the heart of New Zealand’s child abuse crisis, it is only when mothers on benefits move into work that the number of children being abused will finally start to fall.

However, more also needs to also be done to reduce the impact of ‘fatherlessness’. 

This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator, Bruce Tichbon, an ardent campaigner for family law reform, looks at the trends in his article Our Family Law – times are changing:

“Few seem to care that fathers get custody in the Family Court at about one sixth the rate of mothers… Few policy makers seem to be concerned that the rate of male imprisonment in NZ has quadrupled since WWII and that now most jailed men come from fatherless or otherwise dysfunctional homes. Nobody seems much concerned that research shows that boys from fatherless homes are massively overrepresented in suicides, crime, runaways, or school dropouts.

“The policy making bodies in this country seem mostly oblivious to the fact that the fatherless homes they are helping to create are generating the problems they say they can only fix with ever more money and resources. Each time government interventions in the family fail, the government seems to reward itself with ever greater powers to intervene even more.”

In the nineties, the Commissioner for Children Laurie O’Reilly was very concerned about the growth in single-parent families and the effects on children growing up without fathers. He also worried that strategies to prevent violence and child abuse were having a negative impact on fathers and their positive role in the family.

As a result he initiated a number of projects to strengthen the role of fathers, including ‘Fathering the Future’. The Governor General Sir Michael Hardie Boys was asked to speak at the launch and said, “Being a father is important, terribly important. Children, and especially boys, need fathers. The particular relationship between father and daughter, or father and son, cannot be filled by mothers, no matter how wonderful they are. This is simply in the nature of things. Nor can the role be filled by another man, even less by a succession of men, the home environment for so many children today…

“How many men understand that their children, boys as well as girls, need their affection, need it to be demonstrated, not just spoken about; and that if they don’t get it from father, they will look for it elsewhere? How many men realise that their sons look to them as role models, and if they fail, their sons will look elsewhere? And it can be very dangerous for a son. Just think, for example, how gang leaders fill the father role model for so many youngsters…”

The present Commissioner for Children, Andrew Becroft, the former head of the Youth Court, knows this only too well. In a talk at Parliament a few years ago he emphasised the importance of fathers as role models for children. “Many have no adult male role model – 14, 15, and 16 year old boys seek out role models like ‘heat seeking missiles’. It’s either the leader of the Mongrel Mob or it’s a sports coach or its dad. But an overwhelming majority of boys who I see in the Youth Court have lost contact with their father…”

Unfortunately, rather than following on from the work of Laurie O’Reilly and promoting the importance of fathers, he appears to have become influenced by the feminist forces that permanently reside in the Commissioner’s Office.

When I was a Member of Parliament, I fought for the rights of children involved in family breakdown to remain in contact with both their mother and their father, through the introduction of ‘shared parenting’ in family law. To a large extent this would have avoided the dangerous trap of the sole parent benefit.

Unfortunately the Labour Government’s feminist MPs admitted that they would never agree to shared parenting, because it would mean that sole custody and the Domestic Purposes Benefit would no longer be automatically awarded to a mother, and they weren’t prepared to give away their hard fought feminist ‘rights’.

The reality is that if Anne Tolley wants to make a real difference and keep vulnerable children safe from harm, she must insist on three further changes.

Firstly, a change to family law to ensure that when families separate, that children retain contact to the fullest possible extent, with both their mother and their father.

Secondly, a change to the welfare system to remove the incentive for women to view sole parenting as a long-term lifestyle choice – by instead providing support that is conditional upon an expectation of work.

And thirdly, insisting that the Government has the fortitude to say “no” to the feminist lobby and not only introduce the law changes that are necessary, but to also highlight the fact that marriage still remains the safest family environment in which to raise children.


Do you believe the sole parent benefit needs further reform?

Vote x 120

*Poll comments are posted below.


*All NZCPR poll results can be seen in the Archive.

Click to view x 120


Single Mothers should NOT be given extended Benefits. Children NEED Two parents, and a stable home life. Don
I have no problem with women leaving violent relationships as thnme need monetary support but the amount of young women choosing this domestic purpose benifet as a career has to stop as more children come along . With the disappearance of many jobs in the future there will be no jobs for the undereducated…. Catherine
There should be no benefits for additional children while on a DPB. “Unplanned” pregnancies can be dealt with by termination, adoption or the family/whanau. Peter
Any children born while on a benefit should only attract payment from the father not the state. Tim
I am in full agreement with Dianna below about the importance of the institution of marriage. The Mum/Dad/kids family remains the best and most cost-effective way of producing and nurturing the next generation. The last thing society as a whole needs is a growing supply of welfare dependents. Policies to strengthen the traditional family need to be formulated with a view to encouraging nuclear family formation and maintenance. It is not that people should be bribed into traditional marriage and family formation, but rather that the current incentives to shun those norms should be discontinued. Barend
Agree totally with Dr Newman. Elaine
Adult women should have their benefit reduced after the second child and if more chilren are born by the same women then her benifit be cancelled and she is forced to find employment. Ken
Enabling women to have more children when they can’t support the ones they have! Stupidity! Lesley
Yes — for starters— how about going back to square one ie before DBP was introduced. It is obvious that this whole system has morphed into another bloated state department charged with administrating yet another social problem— and to give this outfit another name will not change a bloody thing. This uncontrolled breeding of careless teenagers has to be stopped and can only be done by ceasing to dish out money to wannabe solo parents. Further — since a large number of these dysfunctional people are of alleged Maori descent, all the tribes have to take responsibility for their own and use these abundant settlement payments to rectify their own problems. Why should the ordinary taxpayer be punished financially again and again for problems which WE are not responsible for. But — as T Turei once said : it is all the white man’s fault who caused us to suffer post colonial stress disorder.YEAH RIGHT!!! I say it again :it is time that all the tribal leaders take charge of these problems , use their own money(which was our money in the first place) and stop once and for all to put blame and the burden of responsibility on the rest of us. Michael
Of course it needs reform. However, in general, we tend to see social problems in isolation. There IS a broader perspective and if NZ’s social (and other) problems are looked at in that light we might get somewhere. Democracy is not working as it should. Politics has, over several years, become a “practice” of expediency with little thought given to long term results of *Political Stupidity. (Yep! stupidity.) As a direct result of *P.S. we have inter- generational unemployment and therefore an inter-generational benefit system and at the same time NZ imports a great many foreigners to work in NZ. MMP looks OK on paper but it does result in the government of the day being manipulated by smaller parties that threaten to withhold their support. The New RMA Bill is a case in point. I predict a future shambles of epic proportion. I could write a book! Bill
We require more clout to deal with the problem makers. Warren
The root causes of the present situation need to be addressed. Norman
It’s hard to draw a line in the sand. There are many good solo parents. Discretion is needed – especially when solo parents develop the attitude that more children means more money. Time that each case was assessed on it’s merits rather than an automatic entitlement. Peter
For too long single women having children and being given a subsidized life style by the tax payer. It should be phased out over a period of time so these woman are told any more children no more money. It has stuffed the traditional 2 parent family and many relationships don’t last long enough so that children are taken from pillar to post by their irresponsible parents who in some cases could not care less about them. Colin
Just…”absolutely”! I personally know of several instances where “baby factories” are happening and the future is bleak for all concerned, but especially the babies. Mark
Education must be a first priority. I believe Maori should build a “Parents’ Centre” on each Marae and the govt should staff them with people who understand what safe and happy parentin gmeans. Jasmine
Absolutely. Welfare has ruined the work ethic of intergenerational families, because of stupid, weak politicians, feminists and do Goodes. Mr. English, stop pandering to no-hopers, reform welfare and FORCE beneficiaries to do something to earn their benefits. Carolyn
Push hard Muriel, you are amazing – keep up the great work!!!!! Tina
Shared parenting should where possible, be advocated & supported by Govt agencies and the courts to allow children equal access to both parents. Wayne
The sole parent benefit should be denied to all mothers who will not name the father. That identified father must then take responsibility by financially and emotionally supporting the mother and child, as if they were in a formal marriage like the majority of society. If a sole mother then goes on to have further ‘illegitimate’ children, then those fathers should be held to account in the same way. Where a mother CANNOT name the father father, then social services should be empowered to utilize police or private detectives to track suspects down and prove parenthood by DNA testing. It is not good enough to keep handing out taxpayer money to solo mothers who make a bad choice of potential father of their child, often repeatedly. Vic
Stop the single mother ‘industry’. Terry
Sole parent beneficiary recipients should be subject to income management and should not have access to their full benefit – instead, their bills should be paid directly, grocery money only available through a payment card which excludes non essentials like cigarettes or alcohol, and the only discretionary spending they have should be restricted to $50 a week. Janine
Abolish it. When persons are rewarded for political or social reasons more and more persons chase it. It then ‘becomes’ a right. Stuart
Absolutely! James
Kids need their dad’s love and support! Chris
Updating is always good somethings can be refined to benefit all the parties long term. Ray
Hard and all as it is to get things to a better level attempts must be made to get on top of this whole situation. As a Foster Grandmother it is tragic when a child queries “did you know my mother is having another baby”?. All the mothers 5 children are in Foster care. Laurel
Yes, because it is plainly not working in favour of children and their families as it is. RAY
It is all to do with un- employment, and an unstable enviroment People are unable and unwilling to make committmemts and become rebellious and dissatisfied, on edge. Theodorus
I heard a young mum pushing a pram carrying 2 young babies referring to her benefit as “wages”. I am the person working full time having tax deducted to pay her ‘wages. Don’t reward these single girls for having more than 1 child!’ Adriana
Reform is long overdue. Sherie
A man will not take on a solo parent because the law will give them half after 3 years. Change the matrimonial law to 40 years before the solo parent can claim half of what the man brings to the relationship. George
The DPB needs to be scrapped. Dennis
2 Parent families are the only natural way the feminist loby needs to think of the long term benefits of 2 parent families History will tell all. Ian
Unbelievable that our politicians can not see what everyone with half a brain could see when they brought in these over the top benefits. Charlie
Absolutely essential! and men must be kept financially responsible for their off-spring. It should not be an option to not name the father of a child. Further children produced beyond the first should not secure further income since that, from what I see frequently is the primary incentive for reproducing. No one should greet the news of further children born into a life of poverty (poverty of ignorance and responsibility) with any degree of pride or joy…shame! Carol
Absolutely. Jeff
Two parents are better than one. David
Making it harder to get or keep, is only going to increase hardship for solo parents. Nancy
It is my understanding that a research project done by an Australian University about 10 years ago, found that apart from the negative effect that is spoken of in this week’s NZCPR letter, the Government $10,000 more on any child brought up in a one parent home compared to a 2 parent married couple home. It’s costing us folks! Ted
The reforms of 2012 were a good start, but of course, with Nationals determination to continue what Helen Clark began in every aspect of administration, 2012 will never be more than window dressing. Government control [SOCIALISM] of every aspect of our lives is rapidly being implemented. Is that what we really want? I loved the way the National Party loyalists refused to blame the ‘Party’ for the recently passed R.M.A. legislation. All Nick Smiths fault, they claim. YEAH RIGHT !! A.G.R.
Thanks for all the backup to this article Muriel. Great job. It’s clear from the research you referrence that vested interests have their sticky fingers in the processes needed for meaningful change just as they have in so many other aspects of NZ government. e.g. race relations (RMA Bill) education, health, pc bureaucracy and so on and so on. There is only one way to stop this rot…….vote Conservative and make Binding Referendum the law of the country………in local government as well as National. Until we the people have the right to vote down bad legislation that always has a murky vested interest behind it, nothing will change. In fact it will continue to grow worse until the whole stinking, corrupt mess blows up in our faces. Ronmac
New-age politics and feminist ideology must give way to millennia of human social experience for stable and traditional families. Gordon
It encourages girls to use it as a way of life. Sonia
Yes. I believe that it should not be given to sole parents (usually mothers0 who continue to produce more children while on a benefit, after the first child. Disincentives are required. Fathers need to be involved to bring up their children. Sheila
There should be compulsory FPA advice and no continuing financial reward for having more than three children. Parenting and contraception information should be part of the school curriculum from 12 years of age. Rochelle
I am AMAZED that one has had to ask this question when it’s as obvious as the bits on a bull that the answer is HELL YES. John
I don’t know of anybody who is in agreement with current law and consequent reduction in men’s rights ~ political correctness across the board must end! David
Yes, absolutely. Scott
As for any charity, there ought to be obligations attached to the recipient. In this case it’s the parent(s) – not the child who should be obliged to fulfill therequirements Aunty Podes
Hard to accept that the path indicated by empirical data and recommended by professionals who have studied and analysed that data, cannot be initiated by those charged with the task of managing the problem.. Michael
i am not surprised at the cunning move between the Maori and the National party but saddened by the indifference of the average N Z who continue to sleep until we loose it all . Lance
Our current laws encourage women parents to be solo, in fact they insist upon it if you want to get the benefit. Co-parenting with the father should be a priority. Brenda
Our welfare or civil warfare state encourages parents to become and remain solo thus avoiding their responsibilities. Broadly speaking, a welfare state encourages division and disruption, paving the way for a future tyrant to absolve us from all our personal responsibilities and rule with an iron fist ! To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin when allegedly asked by a lady when he left the conference hall, “Well Dr. Franklin what do we have, (for a New Zealand way), [a dictatorship or a free society?”] “A free society if you can keep it.” Don
Most certainly tied in with action against delinquent fathers. Jim
Fathers should remain in touch with their children,after a marriage split, and mothers encouraged o get back into the work force. Welfare as a long term choice should be abandoned. Peter
Agree with all of the points you have raised about children needing fathers in their lives. You have correctly highlighted the fact that marriage still remains the safest family environment in which to raise children. Additional to that, we must also define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, not any of this two men, two women bullshit that legally is a “family”. Well, that last comment of mine will get a label attached to me for being a …………? Never mind, I have broad shoulders and will not be offended. I have heard for the last 30 years that all the experts have said that a married couple is the most stable environment for children to grow to grow up in. Not only that, it is the key to a stable and functioning society. So I ask, if the answer is so obvious, why is the correct action not being taken to remedy our society? Neil
As mentioned it should be taged to a work scheme, so they have to put some thing back into the community. Geoff
It has become a career choice. I liked Pauline Hansen’s view that solo mothers would receive family assistance for the children she had when she went onto the dpb but any further children born while she was in receipt of the benefit were her responsibility. Lynn
Those women on the DPB that keep getting pregnant and the child goes into state care need to be injected with depro provera every 3 months . If they refuse their is stopped forthwith. Greg
Yeah … reduce it for each child born after the first one, then remove the children from them and stop all benifits completely. I’m sick of paying for them. Des
How many reports, committees, highly intelligent commentators, ministers and eminent judges need to state the blindingly obvious, that the institution of marriage is the best structure for raising families. It’s also glaringly obvious to us mere mortals who live normal, sensible lives, in stable married relationships, that the institution of marriage is indeed the most positive environment for raising kids. In fact it is almost impossible for one human being to raise it’s offspring without the aid of two parents. It takes too long and costs too much to raise a child to adulthood without help and it is grossly unfair and unreasonable to expect the working man next door to pay for your children, which is essentially what is expected by those foolish women who decide somewhat willfully, to produce babies without first trying to ensure that they have built a suitable “nest” in which to raise their young. Your average feathered friend does a far better job of preparing to raise a family than the sad human examples who produce one child after another without the slightest concern for what happens next. Dianna
DPB like all benefits are abused by a lot of lazy people.teenages getting pregnant so they don’t have to get a job.They ruin there own lives & their babies. DPB was brought in to help people out of abusive relationships now instead of couples working out their problems,one trots of to WINZ whom then gives them the benefit when the problem is not that big & all they need to say is “I’M NOT HAPPY” & then neither is anybody kids grow up with out a father usally what they have is their father fighting to stay in touch with their kids while the mum brings in a lot of differant men into their lives as replacement fathers, A all to common story. Yes it happened to me as well. DPB has its place, but needs to be more controlled like all benefits to make sure it is for genuire cases only. nigel
..poverty…poverty and more poverty is the cause of all child abuse….. CHRIS 
Simply as he present system is not achieving any improvements for children, only increasing the number of single mother with statistically bad future results for their children. Alan
End this gravy train for the loosers in this society. Simon
Should not be a lifestyle choice. Chris
I was at the receiving end of this process and hardly ever got to see my children. Richard
Over done. David
Benefit money needs to be shared between two parents, so that children have a better chance of regularly seeing and being guided equally by two parents. Ross
And that’s just a start! Keith
A very well written article Muriel and from my experience, I agree whole-heartedly. Gavin
Here again we have seriously skewed statistics as all the part Maori , which is the majority are classified as Maori . To get a true picture we need to properly define what is. Maori, once we do that and we will get a much clearer picture . Jock
Muriel has said it all this week. I cannot add anything Lloyd
Have seen the damage done by mothers introducing a new partner into a family and the father of the children being accused as being jealous. and spiteful when he reported actual physical abuse of the children. It took him months (and many $$$) to get a sympathetic hearing and subsequently custody of the children. Cilla
NZ’s DPB is regarded as a career choice by many unmarried girls who are indiscriminately breeding all of our future criminals. I suggest we adopt the Singapore model: no incentives to procreate if on welfare%u2026.and no voting rights also!! Tony
Good article, I totally agree. Nicki
Totally agree with you both, Muriel and Bruce. I would in fact say that current legislation and agendas are evil because child abuse is evil. Matt
I doubt the Nats or Labour have the intellectual capacity to either understand what we are saying and even if they did they don’t have enough principles to do something about the situation. Been like that for years and years. to much compromise all the time. Clowns like smith and findalyson are more interested in appeasing the entitled ones than doing the right thing.. Robert
My friend who came here from Zimbabwe, is seriously thinking of returning….that’s how bad it is getting here. NZ is ruled by traitors who despise democracy as much as I despise them. Derejk
We should follow Australia… no DPB after 2 children. Susan
I’m sure it needs to be looked at. Graeme
This “feminist” input has held too much sway in political matters for far too long starting with the WEL back in the 80’s followed by Helen and all her woman MPs. It is too easy for young girls to have babies these days with the reward of a benefit leaving their children to the mercy of any new “boyfriend” who may be invited in to their homes. The law is an ass when it comes to sentencing which the recent case involving Ihaka Stokes shows The man was found guilty but the mother was let off. You cannot tell me she was not aware of abuse taking place even if she did not know how serious it was because she lived in the same house. Her primary concern would have been about keeping hold of her man. This is an issue which is never addressed because it appears that most of these abusers are people brought into the home and who are not related to the person being abused. As a returning New Zealander after living away for more than 20 years learning of all the abused and murdered babies and children in this country sickens me and makes me disgusted to be called a New Zealander. Reforms are needed now and that starts with educating young men and woman in the schools about love and responsibilities. Mary
Feminism is a basic tenement of the demented left so I have given up calling myself a feminist. Men are important as parents and are half the human race. Monica
The number of sole parents dependents on benefits in NZ is a disgrace – it represents a catastrophic policy failure.  Don
National should have properly reformed all the benefits at once in 2012. Being held hostage by feminists is just a cop out.  Andrew
Its long past time to abolish the DPB and introduce shared parenting so kids don’t get trapped in the welfare system and can keep the support of their fathers. Murray
The Commissioner for Children should lead a project to support fatherhood – he’s the right person to do it if can escape from the clutches of his feminist staff.  Gay
Reform is long overdue. Let’s hope National is not so gutless the second time around. Jason