Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Child policy smacks of nanny state, says critic

Paula Bennett.
Photo / Janna Dixon
Paula Bennett. Photo / Janna Dixon

"Nanny state" - a term the National Party threw at the last Labour Government - has been thrown back at Social Development Minister Paula Bennett over proposals to monitor "vulnerable children".

Ms Bennett probably expected to be among friends when she took a two-week roadshow about her Green Paper for Vulnerable Children on to her home turf yesterday in Waitakere, a seat she clung on to by nine votes in last November's election.

"Should we monitor all children at birth? Should we share information more?" she asked a crowd at the Community Resource Centre.

Waitakere Community Law Service manager Paula Bold-Wilson gave her a clear answer.

"How would I feel about it?" she asked. "I'd feel like this was a nanny state, that this was Big Brother.

"Because I'm Maori, because my children are Maori, the focus will be on those children. I don't want the state watching everything that I do." She urged Ms Bennett to help Maori families by reducing poverty and funding more Maori social service agencies.

Another young woman warned that agencies might share wrong information. She grew up in a family where her mother abused the children but her father always took the rap when police came, so when the parents split the mother won custody.

However, others said agencies should be able to share more information about children. Anna-Marie Scroggins, a child health liaison nurse at Waitakere Hospital, said she had a baby son at 17 who would have been classed as "at risk".

"I would have been happy for that system to be in place to see that he got the things that he needed," she said.

Later, at a meeting in Manukau, Ms Bennett ran into flak from the Pacific community about the Green Paper's focus on children rather than families.

"Child-centred policies are foreign to the Pacific Island community because our focus is on the family. Healthy families, healthy children, full stop," said Haydn Solomon, reporting a consensus from the Auckland Pacific Social Services Network.

- NZ Herald

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