One of the more enlightening conversations I have had during my 26 years of existence occurred while talking to an ex-gang member turned social worker in one of the poorest parts of Northland.
We were talking about the history of welfare in the area, and what impact it was having on the goals of kids there today. "Oh, the girls just get pregnant because they know they can get money for it," he said. "That is their life plan."
It was at that moment I understood the human cost of a Government that tries to help by doing things for people - like provide an income for those perfectly able to work. Ultimately, it does nothing more than create dependent, vulnerable people.
We lose the ability to be strong, resourceful and responsible simply because we don't have to be.
A case in point is the much lauded and verbosely titled "Inquiry into improving child health outcomes and preventing child abuse with a focus from pre-conception until three years of age".
It is wonderful to see the Government recognising that child abuse is a serious problem in this country, and even better to see parents being mentioned as critical to the outcomes of a child's life.
But the report fails to then focus on how to provide a legislative environment that fosters good, strong, loving parents. Instead, it focuses on how the Government can do the job for them.
Take, for example the report's suggestion that "optimal prenatal, natal, postnatal, and whole-of-life nutrition action plans" be implemented for children. Whole of life nutrition plans? Surely the point of early intervention is to ensure children grow up into adults who are able to look after themselves? If they need someone to be telling them what to eat at 45, there really is no point.
Another of the report's recommendations is for all schools to be teaching children about "sexuality and reproductive health education, contraception, sterilisation, termination, and sexual health services".
What about the parents? Why aren't we giving them the tools to teach their children about these quite personal and controversial issues if their ability to do so is a concern? Anyway, teachers are busy enough doing the job they signed up to without having to be parents as well, and as any teacher knows, preaching at a kid during school hours, then expecting them to go home to a completely different example from "best practice" will not give them clear signals on what to do.
The report also calls for "better access to medical abortions for women, regardless of their age" and says school-based facilities providing information on reproduction and contraception "should encourage students but not require them to share this information with their general practitioner and their parents."
The astonishing examples of eradicating parental and personal responsibility go on, including a recommendation the Government make private sector landlords responsible for injury prevention among their tenants.
Despite this, the authors continually acknowledge that, "The evidence is clear that loving committed parents or caregivers who exercise individual responsibility in providing a safe environment for their children are key to achieving positive outcomes."
Why the authors want to turn the Government into a nanny instead of teaching parents how to do their job is beyond comprehension; it won't make better parents, it will make lazy ones.
- © Fairfax NZ News