Adult gang members and their children’s contact with Ministry of Social Development service lines
The harm inflicted by gangs is a serious issue in New Zealand. We have a complex gang problem that spans social, economic and justice issues.
Almost half of the serious offences committed by gang members are family violence-related. A high proportion of gang members’ children experience multiple incidents of abuse or neglect.
Adult gang members and their children’s contact with Ministry of Social Development service lines seeks to quantify the scope and scale of the societal impact of adult gangs in New Zealand as it relates to contact with the Ministry.
The report establishes baseline figures on how many known adult gang members, and how many of their children, come into contact with the Ministry of Social Development’s service arms, and the types and estimated total costs of contacts that occur.
This report, as a first step, gives a much more comprehensive picture of the social costs associated with gang members.
There is further opportunity for government agencies to work more collaboratively to address the social harms noted throughout this report. Most notably, there would be an added benefit in incorporating further social sector data to enhance the profile we have of gang families.
Profile of known adult gang members as at July 2014
- Most (86 per cent) of the 3,960 known adult gang members were patched, with the other 14 per cent being prospects. Patched members and prospects were all male.
- The two largest adult gangs, the Mongrel Mob and Black Power, accounted for two-thirds of all known adult gang members in New Zealand as at July 2014.
- Over three-quarters of adult gang members were Māori, 14 per cent were European and eight per cent were Pacific peoples.
- Adult gang members’ ages were spread with 20 per cent being in their twenties, 29 per cent in their thirties, 31 per cent in their forties and 17 per cent in their fifties. The average age of gang members was nearly 40 years.
Welfare assistance received by gang members
- Nine out of every ten gang members have received main benefits.
- Ninety-two per cent (3,627) of the total 3,960 known gang members received main benefits from MSD at some stage between 1 January 1993 and 31 December 2014.
- The 3,627 gang members spent on average 8.9 years on a main benefit (not necessarily continuously). Over half the time was receiving job seeker-related benefits and nearly a quarter of the time was receiving health or disability-related benefits.
- Eighteen per cent of all gang members had received a main benefit for a total of over 15 years, whereas 13 per cent received main benefits for two years or less, and eight per cent had not received main benefits at all.
- As at the end of 2014, the gang members had been paid an estimated total of $525 million in welfare assistance
- The total cost of all main benefits paid to the gang members between 1 January 1993 and 31 December 2014 was estimated to be $382m.
- Over the same period, an estimated $143m was paid to the gang members in supplementary benefits (e.g. Accommodation Supplement) and ad-hoc payments (e.g. hardship assistance).
- In total, an estimated $525m in welfare assistance was paid to the gang members, an average of around $132,000 per person.
- Over 7,000 dependent children were included at some point in time in benefit spells with the gang member cohort
- Over half (59 per cent) of all gang members had benefit spells that included a total of 7,075 dependent children. These children spent an average of 2.8 years included in benefit - most commonly in either sole parent-related or job seeker-related benefits.
- A total of 1,393 children spent more than five years included in benefit with a gang member, including 319 who spent more than 10 years included in benefit.
- Nearly 40 per cent of the children of gang members were first included in benefit before their first birthday.
- One per cent (32) of the 3,055 gang members who have received a main benefit in the last five years have been prosecuted for welfare fraud.
Gang members as the perpetrators of abuse or neglect of children
- Over a quarter of adult gang members were recorded by Child, Youth and Family as the alleged perpetrators of abuse or neglect of children
- Of the total 3,960 known gang members, 27 per cent (1,056) were recorded by Child, Youth and Family as being the alleged perpetrators of substantiated abuse or neglect of children (noting limitations around the completeness of historical data).
- Most commonly this was emotional abuse of children, recorded for 21 per cent of all gang members. Six per cent of gang members were recorded as being the alleged perpetrators of physical abuse of children, and two per cent for the sexual abuse of children. Seven per cent of gang members were recorded as having allegedly neglected children.
- The 1,056 gang members were recorded as the alleged perpetrators in a total of 4,944 substantiated findings involving 2,953 distinct children. The relationship of the gang member to the victim in these 4,944 findings was recorded as the parent in 77 per cent of cases, and as the step-parent or mother’s partner in 15 per cent of cases. In three per cent of findings, the gang member was recorded as some other relative to the victim, and in two per cent of cases had a non-familial type of relationship to the victim.
Gang members’ children known to Child, Youth and Family
- Analysis was carried out on whether gang members’ children had ever had contact with the Care and Protection or Youth Justice service arms of Child, Youth and Family.
- Sixty per cent of the 5,890 children of gang members known to Child, Youth and Family have been abused or neglected.
- A total of 3,516 children of gang members were recorded as being the victims of abuse or neglect that had been substantiated on investigation by Child, Youth and Family. This is 60 per cent of the total 5,890 known children of gang members.
- Of the total 5,890 known children of gang members, 44 per cent were emotionally abused, 28 per cent were neglected, 13 per cent were physically abused and four per cent were sexually abused in terms of substantiated findings.
- The alleged perpetrator of abuse or neglect of gang member’s children was more often recorded as the child’s mother than the gang member father. However, caution should be taken with this finding as the relationship was not recorded for 20 per cent of cases.
- Nearly a quarter of the children of gang members aged 10 years or older had youth justice involvement with Child, Youth and Family.
- Of the total 5,890 known children of gang members, 3,372 were aged 10 years or older at the time of this analysis. Of these 3,372 children, 23 per cent (762) had at least one referral to Child, Youth and Family for a Youth Justice Family Group Conference (FGC).
Estimated costs to Child, Youth and Family associated with gang members
- The estimated lifetime-to-date total cost to Child, Youth and Family from the adult gang members and their children was at least $189 million.
- We estimate the direct and indirect costs of the 3,960 known gang members lifetime-to-date contact with the Child, Youth and Family service arms was in the vicinity of $58m. This is likely to be an under-estimate due to data limitations. Estimated costs cover both the care and protection and youth justice areas.
- We estimate that the direct and indirect costs to Child, Youth and Family of the 5,890 known children of gang members was in the vicinity of $131m, making an overall estimated total of $189m.