A news item appeared this morning that set me wondering about the efficacy, or not, of her anti-smacking law.
You’ll recall that Sue Bradford, Helen Clark and John Key between them agreed four years ago to ban parents disciplining their children by smacking. This, we were told by Bradford, Clark and Key—and by virtually the entirety of the chattering classes—would stop parents beating and killing their children.
How has it worked out?
Well, that this was never about evidence-based harm reduction can be understood when you realise the evidence for how this worked out has never really been properly followed up.
The government’s “Family Violence Death Review Committee” has done “considerable work,” they say, “setting up systems,” “building trust and goodwill,” and “strengthening our understanding” of the work of responsible agencies. They’ve also established relationships, protocols (“clear and safe protocols,” to boot!), and “engaged with appropriate cultural specialists in each death review case.”
I’m sure that will all make you very happy. What they’ve been been less good at is actually producing evidence. This, they say, is “due to a range of issues beyond their control,” and clearly beyond the interest of everyone who argued that this policy was based on evidence.
The best we can discover, it seems to me, appears on page 9 and 10 of the ill-starred committee’s December 2011 report,* which suggests
In the period 2002-2008, 186 family violence deaths were identified by the FVDRC [of which 49 were children under 15 years, and 38 under 5]. This equates to approximately 27 [killings] per year on average [in total].
And what of 2009, 10 and 11?
At the time of writing this report [in December 2011], the NZ Police have identified … 42 [killings] classified as family violence related for 2009 while preliminary data collection indicates 26 [killings] were family violence related for 2010.
There are no figures given for 2011, the “researchers” have not bothered to break the numbers down into age groups, and even the figures given for 201o are still classified as a “preliminary count of family violence deaths identified by the FVDRC at the time of writing the report,” i.e., twelve months after the end of they year in question.
Nonetheless, we can still confidently say the “average” 27 deaths by family per year has not gone down. Precisely the opposite.
The report of the NZ Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee is equally careful to tiptoe around the issue, carefully breaking its own figures down in a way that doesn’t highlight the number of parents killing their children. But we can still observe that deaths by intentional injury, i.e., by beating, has not decreased
The news item this morning announced further research from yet another group of researchers, this lot producing the Childrens Social Health Monitor, none of whom seem to talk to each other. This research however is more unequivocal, researcher Dr. Nicky Turner telling Radio NZ this morning
the number of children dying from assaults each year has not changed in more than a decade.
Not changed in more than a decade.
You can see that here in this graph pulled from their 2012 report, which shows no dramatic drop after the ant-smacking law was introduced :
And you can see how “successful” the anti-smacking law has been in stopping parents beating their children, with more up to date figures showing the same number of children every year (around 70) being hospitalised for assault, neglect or maltreatment, regardless of what the law now says:
Moral of the story is this: Parents who respect the law stopped smacking. But those parents who didn’t respect the law carried on beating.
Meanwhile, the social engineers who still can’t tell the difference between smacking and beating removed a valuable form of discipline from the toolbox of good parents, while doing nothing at all to stop bad parents killing their kids.
Oh, and they essentially stuck a policeman in every home, replacing parental force with nanny’s. Which I’m still convinced was the real intention.
Thanks Sue Bradford.
Thanks Helen Clark
Thanks John Key.
* * * *
*I’m more than happy to hear there’s a better source.