13 Oct 2016

Poor parenting a by-product of poverty - Northland counsellor

6:48 pm on 13 October 2016

A counsellor who's worked with troubled Northland families for more than 40 years says poor parenting is a natural by-product of inter-generational poverty.

A child's pink toy bike at Island Child Charitable Trust's emergency housing

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Police Minister Judith Collins has blamed poor parenting for many problems, including youth crime.

Ms Collins' comments were in response to a question from a Northland police officer about the experience of child poverty making people join gangs in later life.

She responded that financial problems were a less important cause than the lack of proper care for children by some parents.

"I don't just see monetary poverty," she said. "I see a poverty of ideas, a poverty of parental responsibility, a poverty of love, a poverty of caring."

Ms Collins then said that in New Zealand there was money available to everyone who needed it.

"I can tell you that it's not just a lack of money, it's primarily a lack of responsibility - I know it's not PC - but, you know, that's just me."

She later told RNZ her comments had been twisted out of context, and she had been responding to a question which she felt unfairly linked child poverty with crime.

Patsy Henderson, who runs the Miriam Centre in Whangarei, said she had now seen three generations of families who have lived in survival mode.

A lack of warmth and a lack of hope became entrenched, she said.

"Everybody needs a decent go, and [nothing changes] unless you alter the environment in which children are growing up - it's poverty, it's lack of jobs, it's lack of belonging, it's nutrition, it's health, it's good housing.

"People think, 'I live in the hood - who am I?' There's no way out for them, they see."

Those families needed to be healed or the cycle would simply repeat, Ms Henderson said.