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Muriel Newman Speech: Welfare And Crime

Welfare And Crime - The Damaging Link

Thursday 21 Mar 2002
Dr Muriel Newman
Speeches -- Social Welfare

Speech to Law and Order Rally, Cathedral Square, Christchurch, Thursday, March 21, 2002, 12:30pm

We are all kidding ourselves if we are not prepared to accept the strong links between welfare and crime.

We also need to accept that the current Government has a soft stance on welfare which is seeing more and more people trapped in dependency - with all the adverse social consequences.

Therefore, if we to be are serious about solving our growing crime problem, we need to get to the heart of the causes of crime, expose the real link between welfare and crime, and make welfare reform a national priority.

Statistics show that those being sent to prison are six times more likely to have been on welfare than in a job. While beneficiaries comprise some 12 percent of the adult population, they comprise more than 50 per cent of the prison population.

In its latest census of prison inmates the Department of Corrections shows that prior to sentencing 73 percent of female inmates and 49 percent of male inmates had been receiving a benefit. Almost half had been on the Domestic Purposes Benefit or the dole.

While there is an obvious need to be cautious about interpreting such data, the fact that people who commit the sort of serious crimes that are punishable by imprisonment are so much more likely to have been on welfare than in work, is significant.

The reality is that children are the victims of welfare dependency. Their path to crime can start early. Our children need to be kept active and healthy.

Studies of crime trends show that one in four young New Zealand males get into trouble with the police. Young single men are difficult for a community to control. Yet if young men have jobs and money in their pockets, if they have a wife, children, and a mortgage, they are far less likely to commit crimes than young men with no jobs and no attachments.

Common sense tells us that it is not right to pay fit and able young men to sit on welfare and do nothing in return. Leaving them with little money but lots of time on their hands is dangerous. Lacking the disciplines of work and the rewards of a good job, as well as the responsibilities of family, research shows that such young men are at an increased risk of becoming involved in crime.

Research also shows that family structure has a significant impact on crime. A number of international longitudinal studies have found that children from broken homes were more than twice as likely to have been convicted of serious offences than those from intact homes. Statistics for boys being raised by an unmarried mother are the worst.

As I remarked at the beginning, the reality is that this Government's soft approach to welfare is making the problem worse. Already long-term benefit dependency has increased by 26 percent since the election, with 56,000 people having been out of work during the whole two-year term of the Government.

New Zealanders want to live in a safer county. But to achieve that goal we must have the courage to address the causes of crime. Other countries have been successful; we can learn from them and we can be successful too.

While the causes of crime are complex, we need to recognise that a welfare system which breaks up the family and creates intergenerational dependency lies at the heart of the problem. That is why ACT is committed to real welfare reform.

Real welfare reform is crucial to reducing crime. It has to be given a top priority if we are to achieve our goal of making New Zealand a safer place to live, to work and to raise our families.


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