Risk factors for children

Minister of Finance Bill English has announced the release of data on major risk factors for babies through to young adults (ages 0-24).

Final data-set enhances at-risk youth profile

Further data on the risk factors that indicate children are likely to lead difficult lives has been released today, giving social service providers valuable insights into the issues these vulnerable children face, Finance Minister Bill English says.

Since 2013, Statistics New Zealand has collected data from government agencies including the Ministries of Social Development, Health and Education, as well as Child Youth and Family, Corrections, Police and Housing to create the world-leading Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI).

Mr English says today’s publication extends the analysis to include 0-14 year olds, giving a broader picture.

“Like the two earlier reports, the analysis of the risk factors affecting 0-14 year olds has produced information that will help government agencies, NGO’s, Iwi, Pacifika, and the wider social sector understand the needs of the most vulnerable New Zealanders.”

The analysis has identified four indicators that could lead to poor outcomes later in the lives of this group of children.

  • a CYF finding of abuse or neglect
  • being supported by benefits for most of their lifetime
  • having a parent who has received a corrective sentence
  • having a mother with no formal qualifications

If children have two or more of those indicators they are at much greater risk of having poor outcomes.

Being supported by benefits for most of their lifetime and having no formal qualifications won’t be solved by just giving them more money. Probably the same for most who abuse or have corrective sentence.

Compared to 0-14 year olds with fewer than two of the four indicators, those with two or more indicators are:

  • three times more likely to leave school with no qualifications
  • three times more likely to receive benefits for more than five years between ages 25 and 34
  • three times more likely to receive a prison or community sentence between ages 25 and 34
  • six times more likely to be referred to Youth Justice services
  • four times more likely to be on a sole parent benefit by age 21

Which means the cycle of risk factors is inter-generational, not surprisingly.

Mr English says this means as they grow older, more than a fifth of children who have two or more of these indicators will be on a benefit for five or more years or serve a prison or community sentence.

“Those are grim outcomes by any standards. This information – which is being made widely available – will enable the social sector to create solutions and interventions to better help vulnerable people make positive changes to their lives.”

Alongside the 0-14 year old data-set, Mr English has also launched an online mapping tool called Social Investment Insights which allows users to point and click to drill down into the data by location.

“The Government’s programme of social investment is about using information to improve the lives of New Zealanders with evidence-based investment in social services.

“For the first time we can see the risk-factors affecting young people within their various communities – with the necessary privacy protocols in place.

“This is priceless information for service providers who need to understand the people they are trying to help.

“We want to reduce misery, rather than service it and that requires a deep understanding of the drivers of social dysfunction.”

Not sure why the Minister of Finance has fronted the release of this.

Tools and data can be viewed and downloaded:

‘Forced contraception’ versus ‘encouraged responsibility’

Yesterday Anne Tolley was interviewed on NZ Q & A about dealing with the ineffectiveness of CYF (Child, Youth, Family) at dealing with child protection.

While changes to how CYF are currently being looked into Tolley raised a contentious issue – “forced contraception”.

@AnneTolleyMP raises impt issue re contraception for vulnerable families @NzMorningReport. Estimated 9,000 babies born at risk each year.

Radio NZ reports Minister considers ‘tricky subject’ of family size

Anne Tolley admitted it was a tricky subject, but said something had to be done about the women who have multiple children taken into care.

Mrs Tolley said she was talking about a small number of families, where Child Youth and Family was removing more than one child at birth, most from homes with a history of abuse and neglect.

“I know of a case where they were taking the sixth child from that woman and of course the first question I ask is; ‘So what sort of family planning advice is being made available to that woman, is it there immediately for her to think about?’

“It can’t be great for the mum involved to be continually pregnant and then losing that baby,” she said.

So is Mrs Tolley suggesting limiting the size of families?

“That’s not the New Zealand way. We don’t live in a dictatorship like that, but for some of these families I think it’s very distressing that we are removing four, five and six babies from them. And of course there’s a huge cost then that goes on to the general taxpayer,” she said.

But she said there was an underlying problem – referring to the Growing Up in New Zealand study that found just under a third of pregnancies were unplanned.

Mrs Tolley said in this day and age there was no need for that.

“Are we making sure that family planning and contraceptive advice is getting to the very people who need it, the families showing the most dysfunction and the most stress,” she said.

That doesn’t sound like an intention to force contraception but that’s a very tricky issue.

Association of Social Workers chief executive Lucy Sandford-Reed said she felt uncomfortable about the minister’s comments.

She said women could not be forced to use contraception and she would oppose any move to punish them by cutting their benefit if they did not agree to.

“My view would be that of a different approach and one that isn’t reactive and punitive. Providing contraceptive advice needs to be part of a package that the social work practitioner takes with them when they start working with the family. But you can’t just stomp in on day one and say ‘right here’s the pill’,” she said.

Nothing like that has been suggested by Tolley.

This is a very difficult thing to deal with, and is similar to people with high genetic risks of having children with serious medical or mental problems.

Forcing sterilisation and contraception should perhaps be reserved for extreme situations, but educating about strongly encouraging sterilisation and contraception for some people must surely be a responsible way to deal minimising children being born into at risk family situations.

It’s not dissimilar to forcing/encouraging vaccinations. Or forcing/encouraging blood transfusions and other medical help that is against the religious beliefs of parents.

Certainly these are issues that should be talked about without overstating and scaremongering.

There’s a difference between ‘forced contraception’ and ‘encouraged responsibility’, but the degree of difference may depend on the nature and degree of encouragement.

Video of interview: Overhauling our child care services