Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ignorance or dishonesty?

Yesterday's DomPost editorial misrepresents the financial circumstances of sole parents (or any other parent) on a benefit:

The Government has made a start on the problem of child poverty. It is not a big step, because the cupboard is bare, but it is something.
 And if Prime Minister John Key is serious when he says benefits are now too low, then he should follow up with greater increases next year.
The rhetoric is striking: a National government is saying that benefits do not provide children with "a decent upbringing". That's because "over many years" benefits have remained flat, going up only with inflation.
The benefit increases themselves are modest. A sole parent who survives on $300 a week will now get $325. This is a useful sum for someone with so little, but it does not put an end to their hardship; it merely softens it.

I have written a response (as yet unpublished):

Your editorial about the budget (DomPost May 22) said that, "A sole parent who survives on $300 a week will now get $325."

No sole parent is expected to survive on $300 a week. First, they receive a Family Tax Credit for each child ranging between $64 and $101 depending on number and age of children. Next, the majority get an accommodation supplement to subsidise rent. In 2013, then Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, wrote, "An average sole parent with two children under thirteen, living in South Auckland would receive around $642 on benefit, including accommodation supplement and a minimal extra allowance for costs."

In order to have a honest debate about child poverty, the facts should be on the table. At $642 weekly - admittedly still hard to live on if rent is high - it becomes clearer why poorly educated, unskilled parents, and their children,  get trapped on welfare. It may seem a kindness to raise benefits but the unintended long-term consequence could be greater state dependence -  work obligations or not.

I hope I am wrong.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Increasing benefits for political purposes

Is yesterday's decision to increase benefits a response to genuine hardship, or to political advocacy about hardship?

After all, 70 percent of respondents in the lowest decile households report that they have enough money.