Editorial: Prime obligation lies with parents

Dominion Post 12 Dec 2012
Poverty harmful to children. No-one will dispute the central tenet of the child poverty report released this week by Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills.

Kids who go to school hungry struggle to learn. Kids who live in damp, cold, crowded homes get sick. Kids  who grow up poor are more likely to struggle as adults.

Where readers may be inclined to part company with the commissioner’s expert advisory group is over how to tackle the problem.

The authors, who include prominent academics as well as Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O’Reilly and Salvation Army social policy director Major Campbell Roberts, pay lip service to the notion of reciprocal obligations. They say they were guided  by the notion of a ”social contract” that recognises the mutual responsibilities of parents, the community and wider society.

However, when it comes to the pointy end of the exercise they have a  lot to say to the Government and nothing to say to parents. The report contains 78 recommendations. Seventy-eight of those are directed at the Government; none are directed at parents.

It is, the group appears to believe, the state’s responsibility to ensure that every child has the opportunity to fulfil its potential. That is not possible.  The state cannot be a surrogate parent. It cannot provide love, it cannot offer encouragement and  it cannot set boundaries.