The correlation between child maltreatment and poverty is no longer a state secret (Davidson, Bunting, Bywaters, Featherstone, & McCartan, 2017; Pelton, 2015), not that it was ever hidden from social workers in the field. However a rich vein of irony lies just below the surface of this statement because the nature of the relationship remains obscured, in policy and practice. As Gillies, Edwards, and Horsley (2017) so powerfully illustrate, blaming inadequate parenting for the reproduction of disadvantage and dysfunction is a time-honoured tradition in capitalist societies.
It is a cliché, of course, to point out that we inevitably repeat the mistakes of the past if we do not understand and learn from them. However, this does not make the sentiment any less true. The story of the abuse of children in the care of the New Zealand state is a case in point. It is a deeply disturbing and still largely hidden history (Stanley, 2015; 2017). There are currently over 700 people with unresolved claims on the books of the Wellington law firm Cooper Law. It is very likely that this figure represents the tip of the iceberg.
Over the last few months, the NZ government has faced multiple demands for independent inquiries: to uncover alleged war crimes undertaken by NZ military forces against Afghani civilians, to acknowledge NZ women who were forced to have their new-borns adopted, and to understand the experiences of the thousands who endured abuse within NZ’s state care system. To all these victims, the government’s response has been ‘no’, ‘go away’.
A guest post by Irene de Haan, lecturer in social work in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland and a registered social worker. Irene’s previous roles include Senior Advisor at the Office of the Chief Social Worker and Principal Community Engagement Advisor at the Families Commission. Currently Irene is involved in reviews undertaken for the Family Violence Death Review Committee. Her research focuses on the promotion of child and family well-being and the prevention of maltreatment and family violence.
This guest blog post is by Dr. Tony Stanley. Tony is the Principal Social Worker (PSW) for Tower Hamlets local authority, in London. Holding a small caseload, he has direct experience of working with radicalisation risk cases. He argues that all PSWs should hold cases so they can authentically report on practice issues affecting the frontline. Tony has been appointed Chief Social Worker for Birmingham City Council and starts his new role in October.
Nigel Parton’s (2014) recent study of the political context surrounding the ‘reform’ of child protection practice and policy in England contends that the state is pursuing an increasingly authoritarian agenda in relation to a particular section of the population, England’s poorest and most vulnerable families. The neoliberal project involves a shift in responsibility for social outcomes from the state to families.
@DeborahMTNZ from the children’s charity Unicef says the government needs to provide parents with more advice and support to reduce the number of children being killed.
Originally aired on Radio New Zealand Checkpoint Wednesday, 15 April 2015.