Child advocate Anton Blank slams new 'hugely flawed' Ministry for Vulnerable Children

  • 31/03/2017

Child Youth and Family is gone, and in its place is the Ministry for Vulnerable Children.

The new Ministry was launched on Friday afternoon, but will it do anything to reverse our shameful record on child neglect and abuse?

Social policy expert and child advocate Anton Blank told Three's The Project that while the Government has shown strong leadership in dealing with a difficult issue, "the problem is the overall approach is hugely flawed".

"Approaches that are more successful are less targeted and more universal. So having a universal child benefit, for example, we know that that's a really good intervention to have," he says.

"It's definitely bottom of the cliff, and I think particularly with this strategy, which acknowledges that 60 percent of these most vulnerable children are Maori children, this targeted approach has the danger of stigmatising these particular populations, especially Maori."

OECD statistics show children and teenagers are 50 percent more likely to die of abuse here than in Australia, and Mr Blank says our death toll is due to the market-led restructuring of the New Zealand economy in the 1980s.

"I think that economic restructuring during the 1980s, that really escalated our child abuse rates. Maori rates are the highest in the country. Prior to the 1980s there was not difference in the rates of death between Maori and other children," he says.

"Now we're seeing Maori children killed at much, much higher rates, and that was a direct result of economic restructuring that went on during that time and sent thousands of Maori families to the dole queue."