YET another Child, Youth & Family (CYF) shock-horror report, and the usual hue and cry about yet again restructuring it. The main players, though, seem incognisant that CYF is only a sorry ambulance-at-the-bottom-of-the-cliff affair often able to dispense little more than Band-Aids.

No matter how its deck chairs are shuffled or improved, it still hasn't a hope of coping. Why? Because a state-subsidised production line is running faster, churning out the raw material for CYF referrals - social casualties seriously lacking in basic work and living skills.

Unless some core social and economic issues are addressed at source, the horror stories of child and domestic violence, dislocation and disengagement will continue to exponentially increase. And, despite some outstandingly dedicated and compassionate staff, CYF won't have a prayer.

Peter Jackson, the long-time editor of the Northland Age, won this year's Canon Media Award for best editorial writer.


In a subsequent National Radio interview, he was asked what he considered the most significant changes in the Far North during his four-decade tenure. Peter singled out the rise and rise of Winz, which he described as the "root of all evil" (if interested, the interview is still on the Radio New Zealand website).

Although only meant figuratively, it was an extraordinarily strong use of words - and he meant it in the sense that it had destroyed motivation, initiative and self-reliance. Winz, for far too many people, was the one calling their shots, and many of their so-called "clients" were left disenfranchised, disillusioned, disengaged and, ultimately, dysfunctional.

Why wasn't I surprised when the interviewer chose to ignore this extraordinary statement and quickly move on? The answer, of course, is that discussion involving low-decile, low socio-economic issues is often perceived as "beneficiary-bashing".

God knows there's enough dysfunction at the white-collar end of the spectrum, but if our appalling domestic and child violence rates are to be addressed - along with all the other associated issues - then these particular cards need to be on the table.

This territory is, after all, the socio-economic terrain with which CYF largely deals. But the bottom line should not be to construct a better CYF, but less CYF. In other words, mitigate the issues that give rise to CYF having to intervene at all.

We are, after all, dealing with a small percentage of the population - from my experience in the sector, I estimate about 5 per cent to 6 per cent, although higher for youth.

Crucially, the dysfunction emanating from this sector is consuming about 30 per cent of our national budget. Sadly, many of our "growth" industries are government departments engaged in vainly attempting to constrain burgeoning social casualties and collateral damage.

Like hapless CYF - they are actually great employers themselves numerically, but it's all to do with negative issues.


I have sat in many CYF family group conferences and the like, where representatives of a dozen different agencies arrive to proffer sage advice, where all manner of counselling services are organised for the hapless teenager - except the one that will be the most remedial for the least cost.

That is the provision of a skill-building and income-expanding job. This is not offered because to do so would be interfering with the so-called private job market - this despite the fact that the principals calling the shots here are all in make-work jobs themselves.

They, of course, would deny they're in a make-work job as they deem their jobs to be important. As if leaving a jobless teen hung out to dry is not.

The supreme irony is that the state itself has, in the past couple of generations, unwittingly created the income-providing monster with which the private sector - at the low-decile end - can't compete. It becomes a trap. And where the trap becomes intergenerational, watch the casualties multiply accordingly.

The recipients of this poisoned chalice get subsumed into a dysfunctional virtual reality that has little to do with the normal dynamics of what most people would term healthy society.