Abuse rate 10 times higher in welfare families: study

NZ Herald 12 Oct 2012
Five out of every six children who are abused or neglected in their first five years are in families on welfare, new research has found.

The research, conducted by the University of Auckland for the white paper on vulnerable children, found that 13 per cent of children in families that went on welfare in the child’s first two years were abused or neglected before they turned 5, almost 10 times the rate for children whose parents were never on welfare (1.4 per cent).

That meant 83 per cent of New Zealand children who were abused or neglected in their first five years lived in families that were on welfare in the child’s first two years.

The finding was based on matching Child, Youth and Family Services data on substantiated cases of abuse or neglect with Work and Income data on children born between 2003 and 2006 who were included in the main benefits of their caregivers.

One of the authors, social work lecturer Dr Irene de Haan, said: “The problem is the cumulative stress that arises from people being chronically short of money.

I am concerned that the children live in families with chronic financial stress, lack of food, lack of money, constant moving around.”