Why do we have Children and Families Commissions?

According to the Dominion Post today Finance Minister Bill English is struggling to understand that two under-performing Commissions, combined together, would save a lot of money and make little difference to the output.

The Office of the Children’s Commission should be scrapped and the money used more effectively on frontline programmes actually making a difference. The fact that they have just reduced the position to a half-time position suggests that there’s a half-hearted attitude to its existence! The concept of a Children’s Commissioner is flawed because it fails to recognise the essential and fundamental role of parents. Children never asked for a children’s commissioner. Children’s interests are best served in the context of their own family. Government support for children must be through their families, not apart from families. Any office or structure which even appears to separate children from their parents and families will be counter-productive in the long run. Even the previous Commissioner Dr Kiro admitted that her work was duplicating other government work.

The Families Commission should be scrapped and a Minister for Families established. I wrote about the problems with the Families Commission as an op-Ed for the Christchurch Press 2 years ago. Nothing much has changed since then!

….The Families Commission was set up by the previous Labour government as a sop to the United Future party with its then eight MP’s.

….The Families Commission research has been mixed – but a boon to the local printer. On a regular basis, large coloured booklets are released highlighting research done by the Commission. These include a 97-page report on family breakup involving the interviewing of just 39 parents; a report on parenting programmes targeted to Maori which surveyed nine parents which dropped to five, but still warranted a 30-page glossy booklet report; and a 45-page report on the experiences of migrant and refugee families in New Zealand adapting to NZ culture which admits that they have used a non-representative sample, small numbers, and did not study important generational issues.

Since writing this Op-Ed, we’ve also had,
Mar 09 – “Sent home: impact on the family of a child’s exclusion from school” 40 pages, 8 kids,
Mar 09 – “SETTLING IN: parent-adolescent family dynamics in the acculturation process” 44 pages, 39 parents and children
May 09 – “Finding time: Parents’ long working hours and the impact on family life100 pages, 17 families *
June 09 – “Pathways through parental separation30 pages, 20 fathers in 2 focus group sessions
Aug 09 – “We’re a family”: A study of how lesbians and gay men are creating and maintaining family in New Zealand” 50 pages, 19 families
Oct 09 – “Living with chronic illness” 28 pages, 24 families, 4 health workers
Nov 09 – “Heart and head: explanation of the meaning of fatherhood32 pages, 22 fathers
Nov 09 – “Pacific families now and in the future” 46 pages, 20 young people and an extended family
Dec 09 – “Escaping the debt trap116 pages, 40 families, 7-10 budget advisers
July 10 “Being a single mum – pacific island mum’s positive experiences53 pages, 12 mums and a focus group
July 10 – “Family Food environment48 pages, 136 families asked whether the amount of money they had affects the amount and the type of food they buy (!!)

….The furore surrounding the appointment of two new commissioners Bruce Pilbrow and Christine Rankin speaks for itself. How dare they disagree with the current stance of the Families Commission and seek to represent the views of the overwhelming majority of parents who oppose the anti-smacking law – despite the Act which established the Commission requiring that they ‘facilitate informed debate’ about families. Sue Bradford claimed that the appointments were political because they disagree with her. Yet her silence was deafening when the previous head of the Commission Dr Rajen Prasad was appointed to the ‘cream’ position of number 12 on the Labour party list at the last election – higher than Ruth Dyson, Trevor Mallard, Lianne Dalziel, Shane Jones and Darren Hughes.

….But at the end of the day, it’s time to have a Minister of Families at the Cabinet table. We currently have Cabinet Ministers for disabled, senior citizens, youth, Maori, veterans, women’s affairs – even the rugby world cup. It’s time we stopped paying lip service to our most important asset – strong families.

According to the latest media report, National still needs permission from Peter Dunne to do anything. Incredible really.

$8m per year on the Families Commission and $2m per year on the Childrens Commission – for what?



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