The government showed grim determination to keep the name Ministry for Vulnerable Children for the “new” organisation to take over from the Child Youth and Family Service.
Despite many calls for a more positive and appropriate name, government ministers want to reinforce the message that any child involved with the service has a dysfunctional family and the family is to blame.
For the government, labelling a child as vulnerable labels the parents as useless.
This is of critical importance because it takes the focus away from the political decisions which lead to ever more families struggling and rising instances of child abuse and neglect.
There is never any excuse for abusing children but neither is there any excuse for government policies which undermine parents, strip away their dignity and self-respect and leave their children exposed and vulnerable.
The new Ministry should be called the Ministry for Roger Douglas’s Children because it was the brutal policies of Douglas and his Labour Party cohorts unleashed on New Zealand from 1984 which, several decades later, are continuing to devastate communities, families and children.
That’s not to say everything was rosy prior to Douglas – it wasn’t. But before he took a sledgehammer to the welfare state a breadwinner could work a steady 40 hours a week in any job and have enough income to raise a family with a decent standard of living.
30 years later two or three family members are needed to work a series of low-paid, insecure, part-time jobs to bring in enough income to survive.
The beneficiaries of Roger Douglas’s policies have been the rich and the super-rich.
As the ground-breaking 2010 book “The Spirit Level” demonstrated so clearly, the dramatic increase in social problems in developed countries such as New Zealand in recent decades is a direct result of growing inequality.
Whether it’s increasing drug use, educational underachievement, child abuse and neglect, violent crime or mental health problems the roots are in a society which rewards the rich at the expense of the rest of society.
As families slip backwards from dignity to survival in Roger Douglas’s world their children too often slip from vulnerability to victims.
Poverty, inequality, child abuse and neglect are the entirely predictable outcomes of a world where the right to exploit other people takes precedence over the right to a job, decent pay and the opportunity to raise a family in dignity and self-respect.
It doesn’t matter how many crocodile tears the National government sheds when children are abused, neglected or killed, the responsibility lies in their bloodied hands.