Massive data study reveals at-risk youth . . . are poor

Bill English

Plain English

by Andrew Tait

Since 2013 Statistics New Zealand has collected data from government agencies including the Ministries of Social Development, Health and Education, as well as Child Youth and Family (CYF), Corrections, Police and Housing to create what Bill English calls a “world-leading Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI)”. He says it will help the government solve “long-term, complex social problems, family by family.” The reality is that poverty is to blame and the only complexity is English’s attempts to escape that reality.

The aim of the “IDI” is to provide agencies with “a deep understanding of drivers of social dysfunction” and “good information [that] will enable the Government to better help vulnerable people make positive changes to their lives and become more independent”.

The key finding of the report? “At-risk” kids are poor kids. The Government has compiled a list of risk factors – being brought to the attention of CYF as a child, being suspended from school, having a parent on a benefit or in jail – that it says predict a life of “social dysfunction”. Most live in urban centres like South Auckland and Christchurch but the report also names the Far North and East Cape (Kawerau, Opotiki and Wairoa) as offering a bleak future to youth.

Bill English has identified 4000 teenage girls on a benefit as one high risk group.

“On average, each person in this group will cost the Government over $100,000 in corrections and benefit costs between ages 25 and 34 – and much more than that over their lifetimes,” English says.

Bill English’s concern is utterly fake and hypocritical. He knows unemployent is seen as a positive good by neoliberal economists and his business mates. Prison is expensive to run but for English and his mates it plays an essential role in policing working class youth, especially Maori youth and maintaining two-tier, second-class citizenship for Maori and Polynesians.

These “at-risk” youth are simply the casualties of Bill English’s class war. His fake concern for them and prying into their private lives is nauseating. The truth is, if a government wanted to end poverty it would start by repealing the anti-union laws that Talley’s Affco are using to smash unions in the meatworks, and move on to provide full employment at a living wage in the areas where there is real need – housing, education and aged care.

Don’t be fooled by English’s talk of complex social problems. The only complex problem worth pondering is how do we build a movement that can kick his butt back to Gore.

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