The Salvation Army released its State of the Nation
report yesterday, summing up the nation's social progress.
While it reveals some positive changes, the majority makes
for grim reading on the difficulties many face on a daily
basis. Ellie Constantine takes a closer look at the report's
findings on child poverty, neglect and abuse.
Dunedin Salvation Army Major Glenn Anderson
Poverty, abuse and neglect are daily realities for thousands
of New Zealand children, and those living in Dunedin are by
no means protected from it, Dunedin Salvation Army Major
Glenn Anderson says.
The Salvation Army released its fifth State of the Nation
report yesterday, providing a snapshot of social progress in
The report covered five social policy areas, children's
wellbeing, crime and punishment, work and income, social
hazards and housing, and provided a "report card" for each.
In the area of children, it said while the rates of teenage
pregnancy and youth offending had fallen, and gaps in
educational achievement continued to close, there had been no
progress in reducing rates of child poverty, and it appeared
more children were being abused or neglected.
As many as 10% of New Zealand children may face violence and
material hardship in their daily lives.
"We appear to lack the wit and insight to appreciate the
links between the social environments we create and the
social outcomes we reap. Until we grasp the association,
significant improvement ... is unlikely," the report said.
Maj Anderson hoped the report would "stir" the heart and
resolve of the nation.
"Children are a gift" and he wanted communities to work
together to turn the statistics on child poverty, abuse and
"It's about communities taking measured responsibility for
the lives of the community."
In Dunedin, the Salvation Army's welfare assistance figures
had plateaued recently, but social workers were helping
families tackle more complex issues in housing, education and
Along with practical neglect, he believed emotional neglect
was often occurring - "the ability of the caregiver to
provide a healthy, positive, nurturing environment" - which
some were struggling to do because of other life pressures.
"That has a financial impact on the nation down the line -
poor health, mental health," he said.
Using Ministry of Social Development figures, the report
showed child poverty rates, those living in households with
an income less than 50% of the median, remained fairly
constant over the past five years.
One in six Pakeha children were likely to live in poverty,
one in four Pacific, and one in three Maori. The majority of
children living in poverty were in two-parent households.
The number of children living in benefit-dependent households
was 237,900 last year, 22% of all New Zealand children.
In terms of child abuse and neglect, Child Youth and Family
figures showed confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect
rose from 21,025 in 2009-10, to 22,087 in 2010-11. Over the
past five years, the increase was 58%, or about 10,000 extra
cases of confirmed child abuse or neglect.
Much of the increase in reporting was due to domestic
violence awareness campaigns, and the recent practice of
police reporting to CYF domestic violence incidents where
children were present, the report said.
Statistics New Zealand figures showed reported violence
offences against children increased between 18% and 20%
Reported cases of neglect rose 36%, from 436 in 2009-10 to
595 in 2010-11, reported sexual assaults on children
increased 20% during the same period, from 1522 to 1835.
Salvation Army director of social policy Major Campbell
Roberts said the report "tragically" signalled the country
had "few aspirations for our children and young people and
had all but given up on any serious efforts to relieve child
poverty, youth marginalisation, or address the causes of
He believed the country was at a point where it had two
options, carry on the same policy track of the past three
decades, or make a "committed and concerted effort to ensure
marginalised New Zealanders, particularly the poor and the
unemployed young, are valued and given a stake in the
Child poverty: C-
There does not appear to be any noticeable change in rates of
child poverty. About one in five children probably lives in
material hardship. The number of children living in
benefit-dependent households has probably fallen over the
past year, but remains about 20% higher than five years ago.
Children at risk: D
During 2010-11 the number of confirmed cases of child abuse
or neglect rose for the third consecutive year. Reporting
practices by police cannot fully explain the 20% increase in
notifications to Child Youth and Family, which may point to
changing community attitudes towards the mistreatment of
Children and violence: C+
A further decline in rates of offending, especially of
violent offending by youth aged 14 to 16, is pleasing. The
continuing excessive criminalisation of young Maori needs to
be explained and addressed by the public agencies
Early childhood education: B
While improving rates of enrolment for Maori are encouraging,
the gap between Maori and non-Maori remains large. Progress
towards closing the gap is slow, and policy responses
cautious.Educational achievement: B+The gains of recent years
in closing the gap in NCEA pass rates between high and low
decile schools has been maintained. These gaps remain about
30% between the lowest and highest decile schools.
Infant mortality: B+
The recent decline in the infant mortality rate, although
small, is encouraging.
Teenage pregnancy: B+
The sharp decline in the teenage pregnancy rate is
encouraging, but as it is just a one-year trend, it is too
early to tell if there has been a shift in behaviours and
expectations. New Zealand's teenage pregnancy rate is twice
that of Australia's.
Source: The Salvation Army