Report identifies economic cost of family violence in New Zealand

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A new report commissioned by the Glenn Inquiry has estimated the economic cost of child abuse and intimate partner violence in New Zealand.

Measuring the Economic Costs of Child Abuse and Intimate Partner Violence to New Zealand, by Sherilee Kahui and Suzanne Snively, estimates the economic cost as between $4.1 to $7 billion per year and rising. If nothing is done, the cumulative cost over the next ten years may approach $80 billion. At the high end, the estimated cost of child abuse and intimate partner violence is equal to 60% of what was earned from dairy exports in 2013.

The framework used for the study, the Economic Cost of Child Abuse and Intimate Partner Violence framework, was based on a 2009 KPMG study for Australia.

The report presents the estimates in three scenarios, designed to cover a range of assumptions and robustness of information. Sets of assumptions needed to be applied due to gaps in the data. Even the high level cost estimates are based on conservative assumptions.

Key findings from the report include that under the high end scenario:

  • The cost of pain, suffering and premature mortality attributable to violence is $3.6 billion
  • The annual direct health costs from treating victims is $377.3 million
  • Costs associated with police, court, Corrections, legal services, child protection, victim support and perpetrator programmes add up to $836.7 million
  • Productivity costs such as lost wages and days off work are $954.1 million
  • Transfer costs to the economy from benefit payments, ACC compensation and lost tax revenue are $582.3 million
  • Changes in consumption patterns from, for instance, the higher cost of living for women who live alone to escape violence costs $705.5 million

The report finds the pain, suffering and premature mortality of victims is the costliest aspect of violence - more than ten times the estimated direct health costs. Abuse and violence is also estimated to cost nearly $1 billion a year in lost productivity in the workplace.

The authors state that the cost is high and unsatisfactory as there are solutions. While government spending on family violence has increased, it appears most spending is in response to symptoms and not long-term change investment.

Project Director Suzanne Snively said "There was an encouraging amount of engagement with the project by services providers and their researchers to get to the bottom of the nature and extent of child abuse and intimate partner violence - sadly, illuminating a problem that remains startlingly costly."

Glenn Inquiry Chairman Bill Wilson QC, said "The scale of the economic impact reinforces that family violence is everyone’s problem. And as the researchers say, there is no excuse for child abuse or family violence. This would be true, even if the economic cost of these behaviours was zero."

The previous study on the economic cost of family violence in New Zealand was done by Suzanne Snively in 1994.

A study estimating the economic cost of child abuse and neglect was published by Infometrics in 2010. (A summary report is also available.)

Media:

Inquiry Stands By Robustness of Economic Impact Study, Scoop, 11.11.2014

Violence costs women, children and the New Zealand economy, Scoop, 11.11.2014

How did Sir Owen Glenn's domestic violence inquiry get $7 billion figure wrong?, NZ Herald, 11.11.2014

The cost of violence is too high for us to ignore, Scoop, 10.11.2014

Māori over-represented in abuse stats, Radio New Zealand, 10.11.2014

Multiple factors at play in family violence, Scoop, 10.11.2014

Family violence costs billions - report, Radio New Zealand, 10.11.2014

Domestic violence cost exceeds $7B a year – report, 3 News, 10.11.2014

Image: 3D Bar Graph Meeting by Scott Maxwell Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)