“In New Zealand children are casually produced because someone else is made to take responsibility for financially providing for them. Their arrival guarantees an ongoing source of cash. It is hardly surprising that those without the financial wherewithal to raise a child also struggle with the emotional requisites.
“What then is being done to reduce the incentives that encourage ill-equipped entry into parenthood? Not enough. A young female (aged 19 plus) can still have a baby and expect government assistance and a home for five uninterrupted years. When the child goes to school she’ll have to look for a part-time job and take one if it materialises. But if she is in a rural area the chances of that occurring are slim. Just as slim are the chances of a full-time job cropping up when her child turns 14. The DPB replacement is still a promise of unearned, long-term income and housing for young females. And males, some who will pose a known risk to non-biological children, will continue to piggyback on it.”
The Minister for Social Development, Paula Bennett responded with a letter:
Last week’s Northland Age’s column, ‘Incentives need to change,’ by Dr Muriel Newman, provided an interesting perspective on child abuse. But important points were missed about welfare changes which the column dismissed as incentivising abuse.More
I have replied with the following:
The Minister for Social Development, Paula Bennett (For the children, October 24) describes welfare reforms that "are helping parents get into work and provide a better life for their children." The Minister deserves accolades for what she has achieved to date. My position remains however that the reforms have not gone far enough.Readers of this blog will know I have praised National repeatedly for the changes they have made to the welfare system. And I understand that a government can only move incrementally if they are to retain the support which is critical to staying in government. But that doesn't prevent me from taking a critical position about the shortcomings of the reforms.
At 23 percent, benefit dependency in the Far North District is double the national average. At June 2012 the Far North Territorial Local Authority had 7,800 working-age beneficiaries out of a 18-64 year-old population of 33,370 (latest Statistics NZ estimate.) While it is well known the district also features the highest unemployment rate in the country, only 18 percent of those on benefits were on the unemployment benefit. 38 percent - the largest group - were on the DPB.
Even with the new work-test regime, Sole Parent Support (the DPB replacement) guarantees an ongoing income from the state for those with dependent children. The reality is people can continue to live and raise families in areas where jobs are non-existent. Unless the government compels parents to move where the jobs are (which Labour did with unemployment beneficiaries under Jobs Jolt in the mid-2000s) the long-term and inter-generational welfare dependence will continue. These are the conditions that increase the risk of child maltreatment.
Given the extra discretion case managers now have, there may be an informal policy to do this. But such an approach has not been legislated for.
Wth ACT dead in the water there is no vehicle for and very little publicised opinion about National's shortcomings ACCEPT from the left. The Minister generally ignores that and so she should.
Interestingly her letter is basically an advertisement for the reforms. I could use it myself to explain to people who think welfare is an important issue why they should vote National back in.
But when they get their third term let's hope they give it a bigger and better shake.