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MSD Downplays Link Between Welfare Status And Child Abuse

Media Release

MSD Downplays Link Between Welfare Status And Child Abuse

Friday, 30 August, 2013

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has released statistical information that details the overlap between children's contact with the benefit system, and care and protection or youth justice services.

Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell is welcoming this overdue research. "The last time MSD conducted a similar exercise was 1996 so an update was well overdue. This time the Ministry has followed the 1993 birth cohort to age 17 to explore levels of contact.

Unfortunately, the data is presented in a way that downplays the risks. The benefit cohort is only ever compared to the overall cohort as opposed to the non-benefit cohort. This produces a finding that the benefit cohort had a likelihood of contact with CYF that was, '1.5 times that for the overall cohort.' However, if the non-benefit cohort was the comparison group, the likelihood would rise to 3.4 times.

When MSD examines children on a benefit for 9 or more years who have experienced a substantiated finding of abuse or neglect, they describe the risk as only three times greater than the total population cohort. Again, if this benefit cohort was compared to the non benefit group the increased likelihood rises to nearly 13 times greater."

Mitchell goes on to express her disappointment that MSD then claims the association is about low income, not benefit status. "This makes a mockery of analysing the overlap data. Essentially MSD has written off the correlation between benefit status and increased risk of abuse to low income."

"What MSD needs to do is compare similar groups of low income children with differing sources of income ie from work or a benefit, and their respective contact with CYF.

In the mean time these findings show why welfare reforms aimed at reducing long-term benefit dependency are so important for the safety and well-being of children."

ends

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