According to the latest Families Commission research, The Kiwi Nest,
"The Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB) was introduced in 1973, and has given single parents an income if they are not working while bringing up their children. The DPB has largely been claimed by mothers with dependent children who have left a marriage or de facto relationship, or who are widows. Single-parent families resulting from ex-nuptial births and/or teenage pregnancies have been, and remain, a small proportion of single-parent beneficiaries."
This statement is ambiguous and inaccurate.
Between 72 and 74 percent of single parent families with dependent children rely on a welfare benefit of some sort.
At September 2006 107,628 single parents relied on welfare, with the majority - 88 percent - receiving the DPB.
At least 37, 609 - or 36 percent - first received a benefit under the age of twenty years. (The actual number is likely to be significantly higher, but Ministry records only date back to 1 January, 1993). This suggests that a sizeable - certainly not 'small' - percentage of single parent families' benefit dependence originated with a teenage pregnancy.
The ex-nuptial birth rate in New Zealand is high at 47 percent of all births. Some of these births are to de facto couples. The research claims, "The DPB has largely been claimed by mothers with dependent children who have left a marriage or de facto relationship," then contradicts that with. "Single-parent families resulting from ex-nuptial births and/or teenage pregnancies have been, and remain, a small proportion of single-parent beneficiaries."
At April 2004, of those people with dependent children receiving the DPB , just under a quarter described their current status as 'separated from de facto' ; 35 percent were 'separated or divorced'; the largest group, at 40 percent, were 'single' (open to interpretation) and only 0.4 percent were widows. (Of course the term 'separated' is also troublesome. It may describe a parting of ways after conception or a parting of ways after many years.)
However, according to the Ministry of Social Development, "The proportion of babies under one year living with a sole mother increased from 13 percent in 1986 to 19 percent in 1991 but has changed little over the last decade, standing at 20 percent in 2001. Among Maori babies under one year, the proportion living with a sole mother increased sharply from 29 percent in 1986 to 40 percent in 1991, but fell slightly to 37 percent in 2001."
Again this suggests that births to females who are 'single' rather than 'separated' make up a substantial percentage of single-parent beneficiaries and explains, in part, why Maori are over-represented in terms of DPB dependence.
The use of the words 'largely' and 'small' by the Families Commission researchers is therefore misleading. This is typical of the Families Commission climate of moral relativism. No particular family form is favoured (no doubt a huge disappointment to their creator, the conservative Peter Dunne). Dependence on welfare is approached sympathetically and any suggestion that teenage pregnancy and single child-bearing is problematic is avoided, if not actively deflected.
If Families Commissioner, Rajen Prasad was taken to the poorest neighbourhoods in New Zealand, where schools are filled with deprived and fatherless children, could he look the principal and teachers in the eye and say that the make-up of the family doesn't matter? I very much doubt it.
So let's have some plain speaking about choice and responsibility. If you cannot afford to raise children, don't set about having them. And to the Families Commission, stop making excuses for people who do.
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