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Not only kids with a gutsful . . .

Opinion Piece
by Clive Bibby

While it is to be expected that governments of all persuasions will introduce policies that reflect their own ideology, just because they have the numbers to do so shouldn't be seen as a licence to abuse their responsibility to the wider electorate when making choices.

The recent decision using taxpayers' money to fund the lunch of pretty much any child attending primary schools is a clear case of our current Government acting in its own naked self-interest.

We should not condone it!

I am an old-timer living in a low-decile community where you might think this sort of state intervention has some justification. As such, I regard myself as qualified to know a thing or two about the root causes of child poverty in this country and consequently, perhaps unsurprisingly, find the acceptance of these measures disingenuously presented as the best way of feeding “starving” children abhorrent!

We should be shocked and offended that it has come to this, yet we seem either oblivious or indifferent to the implications of these moves that have “socialism by stealth” written all over them.

In order to appreciate the seriousness of this situation, we need to examine the parameters that are being used by the Government and those advocating the introduction of “free school lunches” to justify their claims that there is no alternative to solving their perceived problem of widespread food poverty amongst school children.

Unfortunately, like most of the modern-day PC answers to society's problems, it is based on a lie and we should be unafraid to call it as such.

Here's what you need to know.

We can start with the premise being used that virtually all of our communities include already large and growing numbers of families that can't afford to adequately feed themselves, because the legitimate household income is insufficient to cover the costs of daily living.

Sure, there are struggling families in every community, but those who have legitimate claims that justify asking for state assistance are nowhere near the number being promoted by those who would have us believe the figures are at such crisis levels. You only have to look at the faces of the bulk of those kids who were sharing a photo opportunity with the Prime Minister recently. I can't recall noting too many who might qualify as impoverished.

What we have here is a slick manoeuvre by the current Government to gain public approval for a community programme that will make them look good in election year, and allow the unquestioned spending of huge amounts on a problem that is at best exaggerated and a “solution” that is for the most part unnecessary.

Yes, we have an enduring problem of child poverty that has to be addressed, but I am less worried about the amount of money spent to fix it or where that money comes from than I am if, in the process, we as a community continue down this path of absconding from our responsibilities to our own families and the wider community.

If we allow these “band aid” measures to become permanent fixtures of our societal landscape without first critically examining the real need, we might as well hand over the keys to what is left of our individual self-respect to those self-appointed guardians of the nation's moral fibre.

There is another way which has the capacity to deal efficiently with this and other problems at source, respecting individual rights to privacy while saving millions in the misuse of state funds.

It is called Whanau Ora.

Remember that brilliant scheme introduced under the name of Dame Tariana Turia when her Maori Party were part of the then National Government?

Unfortunately, because of petty political jealousies, it has not been given the support it deserves — but that shouldn't detract from its capacity to identify the needs of those at the lower end of the social ladder.

Whanau Ora works effectively when a social worker, operating under the control of a local health clinic, visits a client or whanau in their own home where conversations take place that allow for the identification of real needs. Such visits also reveal other needs associated with family survival, for example an inability to adequately feed the family.

So, why not address all the needs of these families at source and, in the process, ensure that the taxpayers' funds are used appropriately instead of contributing unnecessarily to the Labour Party's re-election efforts.

Surely, Jacinda Ardern's smile will be enough to get them over the line.

Clive Bibby