119-1 support for Child Poverty Reduction Bill

All parties except ACT (David Seymour) voted in favour of the third reading (and final vote) of the Child Poverty Reduction Bill in Parliament yesterday.

NZ Herald: Child Poverty Reduction Bill passes third reading

The Prime Minister’s Child Poverty Reduction Bill has passed its third reading in Parliament with near unanimous support from political parties on both sides.

The bill, which will set measures and targets for reducing child poverty, inform strategy to achieve that and require transparent reporting on poverty levels and introduce accountability for governments, was a cornerstone of Labour’s election campaign last year and on the list of achievements for the coalition Government’s first 100 days in office.

Speaking in Parliament today, Ardern said it was no longer just a Labour Party bill.

“This is now an initiative that has been led by a coalition Government with the support of New Zealand First and the Green Party.

Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft recently praised both National and Labour for supporting the bill.

“That was a game changer … having a cross-party accord is historic and the bill is about to be passed any day now and it will be all systems go and I will be watching very closely,” he said.


“And it also is an initiative that has had the support of the National Party. I want to acknowledge that. This is this Parliament’s collective challenge, and the groups that have come together in Parliament today to support it in this House mean that it will have an enduring legacy”

National’s social development spokeswoman Louise Upston said the legislation gave the Opposition and the public the opportunity to measure the progress of the Government.

National agreed in October to support the bill to become law, with some amendments after Ardern and National leader Simon Bridges worked behind the scenes to come to an agreement.

Party leaders constructively working together does not often get reported, and deserves credit (to both Ardern and Bridges).




Porn impacting children a major concern

Comment from Gezza:

During his two-year reign as the Children’s Commissioner, Andrew Becroft says pornography has been the most concerning issue among young New Zealanders reported to him.

Becroft has welcomed a new report which looks into how and why children in New Zealand view online porn, and does so by asking them directly. “The Children’s Convention reminds us that young people have a right to have a say about things that affect them,” he said.

“And if one thing is clear it’s that pornography affects young people. That’s what they’ve told us in this research. “To be honest, in the two years I’ve been in this role, pornography is the most significant underlying concern reported to me by youth workers, community workers and church workers engaged with young people.”

The report, NZ Youth and Porn, surveyed teenagers aged between 14 and 17 years old and found 67 per cent of teenagers have seen porn. It also revealed 73 per cent of regular porn viewers use it as a learning tool, and 71 per cent believe access should be restricted.

A breakdown of information learnt through the survey:

  • 67 per cent of New Zealand teens have seen porn
  • 72 per cent of recent viewers of porn saw things that made them feel uncomfortable
  • 89 per cent of young New Zealanders agree that porn isn’t for children
  • 71 per cent of young New Zealand viewers believe children and teens’ access to porn should be restricted
  • 73 per cent of young regular viewers use porn as a learning tool

Becroft said the information uncovered in the report is “deeply disturbing” and many children recognise the dangers around it.

“The report is clear that young people want more and better education about healthy sex and healthy relationships,” he said. “They want more education about pornography too, so that it doesn’t bully them into unrealistic and dishonest expectations about relationships.”


NZ Youth and Porn report reveals teens struggling to cut back
The NZ Youth and Porn report, released today, says that some young people aged between 14 and 17 already feel reliant on pornography, despite often feeling troubled by what they view. One 16-year-old girl said she stumbled across gay porn on Google while searching for pictures of bareback horse-riding.

The survey also revealed 72 per cent of teens who had viewed porn recently saw things that made them uncomfortable, and 42 per cent of regular viewers wanted to spend less time looking at porn, but found that hard to achieve.

One 15-year-old, whose comments were published in the report, said some of the porn he had seen was “brutal and violent and degrading to the woman”, which led young people to believe that is “how you treat a woman”.

“This is not a Playboy under the bed anymore … there is a bombardment into the devices of our young people.” The main issues raised by viewers included that porn was too easy to access, that it was informing their views about sex in a problematic way, and that it was a complicated issue that could sometimes be hard to manage.

Viewers were more likely to see a focus on men’s pleasure and dominance of others, while also being more likely to see women being demeaned, subject to violence or aggression, and subject to non-consensual behaviour.

They are also using porn as a learning tool, with over half of the respondents saying they use it as a way to learn about sex.

But one 16-year-old said girls sometimes felt they should be “acting like a ‘slut’ or a ‘whore’ because that’s often in porn”. [abridged]


Martin said it showed that sex education in schools needed work, and that educators should be asking children what they needed and wanted to know.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Should they? Whose responsibility is it to teach kids about relationships and sex? Should schools be doing this? Will school attempts to do this crash into the LGBTI+100 Rules movements?

Building Blocks for improving the wellbeing of children

The Children’s Convention Monitoring Group has released a report called Getting It Right: Building Blocks that details where progress is being made and suggests future action.

Key recommendations:

  • taking children and their views into account when new policies are developed
  • supporting children’s participation in decisions that affect them
  • ensuring children’s privacy and best interests are considered when collecting their information
  • using the Children’s Convention to develop a plan for children and their wellbeing.

So I guess this report was a pre-plan. This sounds quite vague feel-good stuff.

NZH: Children’s Convention Monitoring Group releases report to better child wellbeing

Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft said the Government promised 25 years ago to do better for all children when it signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Now New Zealand needed to walk towards that goal.

The convention is a human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children.

Becroft described past work on child wellbeing as “ad hoc” and this report offered a coherent plan.

“If we’re going to mean business to do better for New Zealand children then this report says we have to put in place some key building blocks to get there.

“These are foundations. If they are not in place welfare is not going to make any real progress … We’re better than this.

“We can do so much better for our children.”

We (New Zealand) should be striving to do better for our children. Most parents and families already strive to do the best they can for their children.

There are 1.1 million children and young people under 18 years old in Aotearoa. Around 20 per cent are not doing well and 10 per cent are really struggling with issues ranging from abuse and neglect, material deprivation and poor health to difficulties learning at school.

In 2016 the United Nations gave New Zealand 47 urgent recommendations to improve child wellbeing, including addressing negative outcomes for Māori and Pasifika children, reducing high rates of violence, abuse and neglect. This report would address that, Becroft said.

Problems of violence, abuse and neglect are adult problems, with children being the victims.

“Recent initiatives such as the Child Poverty Reduction Bill and the proposed Child Wellbeing Strategy are positive steps towards improving the lives of children in New Zealand.

“We need to ensure these are not one-off actions.

Minister for Children Tracey Martin said they were broadly supportive of the report and would assess the viability of the recommendations.

“The Ministry of Social Development is already working on key recommendations including co-ordination, training and tools, children’s participation and raising awareness. MSD will deliver an online Child Impact Assessment tool in the near future.

“NZ is committed to major progress on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

Voyce Whakarongo Mai chief executive Dr Ainsleigh Cribb-Su’a expressed excitement over the report.

“It explicitly implores the Government to mandate the incorporation of a child impact analyses on all legislation and policy development processes.

“Seeking out children’s views on service design is essential. It is their future that we are designing, let’s incorporate their views in all that we develop.”

I get a feeling this is largely high level academic type paper pushing. I’m sure some good can come out of it, but there needs to be real life improvements more than ideals on paper.

“Seeking out children’s views on service design” may be essential, but how many kids in deprived living conditions with violent or addicted parents are going to give a toss about “service design’. That just want to feel safe and loved – and this report seems to be way above this basic level of care.

Kids living in bad situations  need help and support, and I feel that fancy words and human rights are way over the top of that, trying to make a few adults feel good about doing something.

But it’s the kids that cop the consequences

A difficult situation was raised on The Nation this morning – a policy where mothers who don’t name the father of their children gets less benefit.

The Nation: Lisa Owen interviews Andrew Becroft

Lisa Owen: Well, seeing as we’re talking about benefits, there is more than 13,000, and they’re mainly women, who are currently getting their benefits docked because they name or won’t name the father of their child. That equates to 17,000 children who are missing out because that money’s not in the benefit every week. Do you think that that is a policy that puts kids at the centre?

Andrew Becroft: No. I don’t. In fact, we gave to this government three, what we thought, were doable improvements that would improve the position of children at the most disadvantaged end. That was one of them – to remove that obligation.

Lisa Own: So, you believe that those sanctions – because there’s an opportunity to do it, as that piece of legislation is under review – so you do you think that they should can that? That it’s too punitive for kids?

Andrew Becroft: In principle, I don’t think it’s child-centred or child-focused. And whatever the rationale for it, it disadvantages kids and it’s not good for children.

If the welfare of the children is paramount, then this seems a draconian and punitive policy that is certain to adversely affect the kids.

Of course children not knowing who their father is is not a great situation either.

Neither is it good that fathers don’t take responsibility for the care and provision of their children.

On Thursday the Herald had an article about this with an eye raising example:  Sanction hurting solo mums by reducing benefit for not naming father

Parents who don’t legally identify the other parent have $22 deducted every week for each child. A further $6 per family is added if it continues for over 13 weeks.

Auckland woman Stephanie, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, can’t prove the father of five of her 10 children. She gets $116 deducted from her benefit every week.

Wow on both counts – the lack of proof of fatherhood of 5 of ten children, and the $116 deduction.

She said the father of four of her children has denied he is their parent. The 33-year-old is currently pursuing court action to get a paternity test. The father of her youngest child claimed he hasn’t had the birth registration papers delivered to his house for him to sign.

Stephanie said it was like the Government was punishing her and her children, when the blame sat with the fathers.

Instead it was her and her babies that went without food and clothing and struggled to make ends meet.

“Caring for them isn’t hard, but financially it is. We can’t afford heaps of things.

A certain amount of the blame is certainly with the fathers. A father should take responsibility for the care of their children, full stop.

But I don’t like the threat of a reduction of a benefit being used as stick to try to force revealing who the parent is. It shouldn’t have to come to this (parents’ responsibility), but it is also not a good way to deal with it.

But a mother who has 10 children with what sounds like at least three fathers has to take a big dollop of responsibility too.

Men have to take some responsibility for birth control if they have sex.

But the ultimate responsibility has to be with the mother. Once a woman becomes pregnant it can be her sole responsibility whether she has the baby or not.

I think it’s fair to question the responsibility of having ten children and relying on the benefit to support them. It seems an extraordinary situation.

The mother has to take some responsibility for being a solo parent – as do the fathers.

A Ministry of Social Development spokeswoman said the policy was introduced in 1990 to encourage the other parent to take responsibility and contribute to the cost of raising their child.

“If a person does not apply for Child Support or identify the other paying parent, their benefit rate will be reduced.”

The spokeswoman said an exemption can be granted for reasons such as family violence concerns, the pregnancy being a result of sexual violation and insufficient evidence being available to establish who the other parent is.

But Cole said an exemption was difficult to obtain and meant the beneficiary had to disclose their sexual history to a lawyer and then retell that story in an open-plan Winz office.

I think that’s putting sole parents in an awful situation.

But some people – both mothers and fathers – put their children in awful situations through a lack of responsibility, restraint or contraception.

This is something that has no easy solutions. The kids are the ones who will suffer – from a lack of money and from a lack of parent.


The Nation – Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft

This morning  on The Nation – Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft “on child poverty, secure youth facilities, and should kids get more of a say in policy making”.

From the Office of  the Children’s Commissioner website:

Our Work: We advocate for the interests and well being of children and young people.

Children’s Rights: We provide advice to people who are concerned about a child or young person’s rights or wellbeing.

“We’ve had a problem for thirty years now, 70% of kids do well, 20% do badly and 10% do very badly”.

“I don’t think most NZers know how bad it is at the bad end”.

“We need a plan, we need targets, we need progress’.

We have a target to halve child poverty by 2030.

The Government says it is too hard to have a single measure but Becroft disagrees. He thinks we are in a muddle. We need as a country to make the target seriously, and that means setting other targets.

Says benefits should be indexed, much like Super.

Child poverty: “We could solve this issue… it’s within our ability if we had the will” Judge Becroft.

We don’t do enough to factor in children’s voices in decision making.

Should solo mums have their benefits docked if they don’t name the father? Becroft says it disadvantages kid.

Should 16 and 17 year olds be able to vote? Becroft says we should think about it.

Too many kids in the youth court had their brains scrambled by cannabis.

An inquiry into abuse in state care? Becroft hasn’t publicly supported this because his agency has been involved in the past. A key emphasis is on making things better in the future.

Interview:  Andrew Becroft

Transcript:  Lisa Owen interviews Andrew Becroft

Child poverty target versus targets

There has been an ongoing argument in Parliament this week about how to target child poverty after the Children’s Commissioner suggested an overall target of reducing it by 5-10% in a year.

1 News: Key shuns Children’s Commissioner’s child poverty target

A target promoted by Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft  to reduce child poverty has been rejected by Prime Minister John Key who says it’s not as simple as that.

The new Children’s Commissioner says politicians should put aside politics and agree to reduce child poverty by five to 10 per cent next year.

Debate on this continued yesterday in Question Time, with Metiria Turei pressing John Key on a single target, while Key insisted it was far more complex than that and that the Government had a number of poverty targets.

Draft transcript:

Prime Minister—Government Policies

2. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Ka tū a ia i runga i te mana o ngā kaupapa here katoa o tāna Kawantatanga?

[Does he stand by all his Government’s policies?]

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister still believe, as he said in this House yesterday, that it is better and more effective for the Government to set individual targets on components of child poverty rather than a specific child poverty reduction target?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.

Metiria Turei: When the Prime Minister talked yesterday about the Better Public Services targets, like rheumatic fever and early childhood education, did he know that the expert advisory group on child poverty provided a comprehensive list of 51 child poverty – related indicators, including both of those?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, but that is exactly the point, is it not? Last week the member was saying that the target should have 17—today she seems to be saying it is 51. For the last while she has been saying that the number of children is 360,000 and then she said yesterday that she wanted to accept that the Government’s number of 85,000—or at least, 60,000 to 100,000—was correct. She is all over the map, and that is the point. The Government is far better to approach—

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He has not addressed the question, and has instead talked about a Green Party position, which he has no authority over.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. When the Prime Minister rose to answer the question he addressed the question immediately. He certainly has gone on to enlarge on that answer, which is probably unnecessary, but he certainly answered the question immediately.

Metiria Turei: When the Prime Minister committed to his Government using individual indicators and targets to address child poverty, did he mean that he would adopt the expert advisory group’s recommendations for a comprehensive list of child poverty – related indicators?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What the Government did—and, I think, quite correctly—was to say that poverty is a very complicated issue, but that there are some individual component parts which, if the Government focuses resources on and gives attention to, can make significant gains. We are doing that in terms of rheumatic fever. We are doing that in terms of the number of children being immunised. We are doing that in terms of the number of children having access to early childhood education. We are doing that in terms of the number of teenage pregnancies, with young mums on the equivalent of the domestic purposes benefit. I think it is far more sensible for the Government to approach this issue in a systematic and thorough way, dealing with each of these issues, rather than the member spending, as she wants to, her lifetime dreaming up some dodgy number that she knows is wrong.

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was an unnecessary and personal attack—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I could not hear correctly what the point of order is.

Metiria Turei: I take personal offence at that personal attack on my integrity, and I ask him to withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not think that the final part of the answer was helpful to the order of the House; I accept that. But I hardly think it was a personal attack on the member.

Metiria Turei: So will the Prime Minister expand the Better Public Services targets to include all of those other indicators that experts have said contribute to child poverty, such as household crowding, infant mortality, self-harm and suicide by children, and serious skin infections?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I doubt we would have an individual Better Public Services target for each one, or there would be so many individual targets that it might lose some of its meaning. All of those issues are on the Government’s radar, and all of them are getting attention.

Metiria Turei: When the Prime Minister is refusing to establish official measurements of child poverty, and also will not set targets for a comprehensive list of child poverty – related outcomes, is he not really telling the country that he will avoid any attempt to identify, to measure, or to reduce child poverty in New Zealand?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Quite the opposite. This is the first Government in the history of this Parliament that has had a list of Better Public Services targets and has been quite happy to be measured against them, and has set those targets in quite challenging areas. The Government produces a raft of different measures and reports in relation to poverty and income, including the longitudinal study by Bryan Perry, which shows that income inequality is not getting worse. The reason the member does not quote it is that she does not like it, because it does not suit her arguments.

Metiria Turei: So what has changed since 2012, when the Prime Minister said: “If you don’t measure, monitor and report on things, I don’t think you can make progress.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Absolutely nothing, and that is why the Government has these individual targets and has a range of different measures. But it is not this Government; there has been longstanding advice from officials that one single measure of poverty in this country would be an inappropriate way of dealing with it.



The Nation – vulnerable children and Hobson’s Pledge

This morning on The Nation (TV3 at 9.30 am, also Sunday at 10.00 am):

Andrew Becroft on the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children… is it the fix we need?

Becroft is the Children’s Commissioner – website.

Andrew Becroft says we’ve got a once in a lifetime opportunity to raise the youth justice age.

Does Becroft share ‘s concerns about resources? We ought to be able to cope with slight adjustment.

After this interview, ‘s Becroft is meeting with the Indian Association about the youth justice age.

The youth justice system is not milo-drinking kumbaya says Becrof.

NZ needs some do-able targets for child poverty says Becroft. Becroft wants to see a 5-10% reduction of child poverty by the end of next year.

“A once in a lifetime opportunity to get it right” again.

“Unless this agency is resourced properly upfront… we’re just setting ourselves up for another review” says Becroft on new Ministry.

Says is not sufficiently resourced, and he’s talking with Minister Tolley.

Don Brash and Labour’s Louisa Wall go head to head on his new lobby group Hobson’s Pledge.

Hobson’s Pledge website: “He iwi tahi tatou : We are now One People”

That’s not really a pledge, it’s a vague statement from one person who was involved which hardly represents ‘One people’.

Louisa Wall is an MP well down Labour’s pecking order (ahead of only one MP who hasn’t announced they are quitting). She was prominent during the marriage equality bill debate but otherwise has a low profile.

Wall is responsible for:

  • Spokesperson for Courts
  • Spokesperson for Youth Affairs
  • Associate Justice Spokesperson (Legal Aid)
  • Associate Sport and Recreation Spokesperson

So not sure why she has been put forward here.

Nanaia Mahuta is spokesperson for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and Peeni Henare has several Maori spokesperson roles.

There is also a report on the anniversary of the battle of the Somme.

Also something on the Trans-Pacific Partnership apparently.



Ministry for Inappropriate Names

Monty Python made famous a Ministry of Silly Walks. Perhaps there’s a need for a Ministry of Inappropriate Names.

Ministry of Slackers and Layabouts?

Ministry of Old Farts?

Ministry of the Crippled and Sickly?

Stuff: Planned ‘Ministry for Vulnerable Children’ labelled “stigmatising” and “cripplingly disappointing”

A week into his new role as Children’s Commissioner, Andrew Becroft described the mooted name for CYF’s replacement “cripplingly disappointing”.

Child Youth and Family (CYF) is being shut down and will be completely replaced by a new agency by April next year.

While “Ministry for Vulnerable Children” is expected to be the new name for the department, this has not been finalised by Cabinet.

“I understand no decision has been made but regarding the name mentioned [Ministry for Vulnerable Children] … the response from me and the office and indeed most of the sector that I’ve spoken to is entirely negative,” Becroft said. 

My response is entirely negative too. That’s an awful name for a Ministry. A negative name.

I hope the Cabinet has enough sensible Ministers to veto this name and insist on something sensible.

I didn’t think changing a name would change a Ministry but changing to a name like this would be a distinct change for the worse.

Q&A: Little, UK/Iraq and children

On Q & A this morning:

100 years of Labour-what is it offering voters today? joins at 9am this morning


Also we cross live to Br Major General Julian Thompson on this week’s damning report into the


Also on the show interviews new Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft


Andrew Little:

Little’s phrase of the day is “more affordable houses”. Building state houses and giving them to select people at subsidised rents is affordable for who?

Little says they can make houses affordable. Confident the can make houses at a much more affordable level, but does not favour bringing down house prices.

He says the Government is “terrified” of doing anything that will help first home buyers. Not consistent with leaving current prices as they are.

Talking about selling state houses to tenants and then building more. That could be a good idea but it depends on whether it is subsidised or not, people who qualify for state houses are unlikely to be able to buy unless their circumstances change significantly.

Little says a trade deal with the EU is important despite his opposition to the TPPA, but says that we can’t compromise our sovereignty.  He may find that negotiating trade deals without compromise will be a bit of a challenge.

Little is still speaking with uncertainty and hesitation.

He doesn’t have any conspiracies about media and conspiracies and bias. He says that the way people are getting news is changing.

Dann refers to Brian Edwards column Little sidesteps that and talks about addressing the issues. That’s something he keeps repeating.

“I’m not a show pony, I’m a straight shooter”.

Coincidentally from @josiepagani

Kinnock ‘People of deep convictions can afford to compromise. People of shallow convictions are terrified of it.

Br Major General Julian Thompson:

Supports exiting the EU, saying that NATO is what is important because the US is a part of it – he says that the US contributes 73% of the cost of NATO.

Wide support for new Children’s Commissioner

Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft has been appointed as the new Children’s Commissioner.

NZ Herald: Outspoken child advocate overcame doubters

Mr Becroft, now 58, has been Principal Youth Court Judge for 15 years. He is an active member of the Karori Baptist Church and chairs the Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship.

“Most of the serious young offenders are really struggling with neurodisability disorders including fetal alcohol syndrome, traumatic brain injury, autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia and communication disorders,” he said.

This appointment has support across the political spectrum.

His appointment as Children’s Commissioner was welcomed yesterday across the political spectrum. Labour MP Jacinda Ardern, who was consulted on potential candidates, said Mr Becroft would be “fantastic”.

Green co-leader Metiria Turei said the decision was “exciting”.

Good to see that Ardern was consulted and that she and Turei strongly support Becroft.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said Judge Becroft would be seconded to the role for two years in what Ms Ardern described as a “change-manager” role to monitor CYF’s transformation into a new agency with a huge $1.3 billion annual budget to buy extra education, health, employment and social services for the families of about one in every five New Zealand children.

Judge Becroft said the proposed changes were a “visionary” approach to tackle the nation’s “utterly unacceptable child abuse and neglect record”.

“I hope there is an opportunity for even more of that vigorous debate to say this cannot continue and how is it that it is happening,” he said.

The CYF transformation and Becroft’s appointment will hopefully ensure ensure big steps forward in the State care of children.