VULNERABLE PAY THE PRICE
Nelson Mandela once was quoted as saying:
“There can be no keener revelation of society’s role than the way in which it treats its children.”
Let us examine how we fare using that yardstick today.
Poverty strips children of economic security and pe-netrates deep into their social relationships. It also has an emotional cost as children struggle to cope with social risks of difference and disadvantage.
Children’s inner fears are largely hidden, and they are rarely asked what their thoughts and feelings are. But research with children and young people reveals that poverty causes significant anxiety and sometimes depression. Children can feel different and inferior; they can be anxious and fearful about being bullied, isolated and left out.
Entrenched poverty brings uncertainty and insecurity to children’s lives, sapping self-esteem and confidence and undermining children’s everyday lives at home, in schools, and faith in their future wellbeing. It is a devastating downward spiral often exacerbated by a range of social hazards including debt, alcohol and loan sharks and gambling.
Sadly, it is usually the most vulnerable children who pay the highest price of proliferation of these hazards in low-income communities. If our children, who collectively are the future of this country, are to be protected from their effects, then families, communities and the government must together make greater efforts to reduce, if not eliminate, access to legal and illegal social hazards. Let’s start with gambling, for example.
DOING THE HOKEY POKIE
Gambling promises the poor what property per-forms for the rich: something for nothing. Efforts to reduce harm from this particular social hazard must focus not only on the individual, but also on the hazard itself, and on the wider economic and social environment in which it thrives.
According to the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand (PGFNZ), New Zealanders lost a stag-gering $2.028-billion through gambling (in casinos, racing, lottery and pokies) in 2009 and that $5.6-million was gambled every single day during that particular year alone.
New Zealand has one of the highest concentrations of pokie machines in the world. These machines are particularly most efficient when it comes to removing money from low-income communities. Pokies (outside of casinos, racing and lottery) took $889-million in 2009, compared to $107 million in 1991. Pokies have the largest slice (46%) of the gambling market in this country and its pervasively everywhere.
1-STEP FORWARD, 3-STEPS BACKWARD
Ironically, pokie trusts are an expensive way to fund social development. “For every $1.00 given to an essential social service by a pokie trust,” says Dave Macpherson of Gambling Watch, “about $3.00 is lost by someone into one of their pokie machines”.
No matter how you look at it, it’s an inane one-step-forward three-steps-backward solution, even if you can call it that. We’ve got to do better than this.
So how many pokie machines do you think there are in your area and low-income communities around the country?
The table below gives you a clearer idea (data tabulated as at 31 March 2006).
Gaming Machine Venues And Numbers By Region
|Districts||Venues||Machines||% sites||% machines|
|Central Hawke’s Bay||8||78||0.46%||0.37%|
|Far North District||37||426||2.15%||2.03%|
|Kapiti Coast District||15||214||0.87%||1.02%|
|Lower Hutt City||46||627||2.67%||2.98%|
|North Shore City||48||662||2.79%||3.15%|
|Upper Hutt City||12||164||0.70%||0.78%|
|Western BOP District||13||185||0.76%||0.88%|
NOTE: As of March 2010, there were 19,359 non-casino pokie machines in New Zealand. With casino pokies included, this means there is one machine for every 134 people over 18 years of age.