Welfare reforms and families – I’ve made my submission, have you?

27 October 2012

You might have come across this beautilful Mäori proverb:

Hütia te rito o te harakeke, kei hea te kömako e kö?Kï mai ki a au, ‘He aha te mea nui i te ao?’ Mäku e kï atu, ‘He tängata, he tängata, he tängata’.

If the heart of the flax is pulled out, where will the kömako sing? If you ask me what is most important in this world, I will reply, ‘People, people, people’

Right now in Aotearoa, I would expect the reply to be more like: ‘It is money, money, money’.

I don’t really like to get so political on you all, but this new bill really worries me.  Here are just some of my thoughts, and my brief submission, I completed it today, after writing much and worrying about it I decided to keep it as short as possible, and it’s hard not to get all het up about why it’s just so wrong.  Take a look, I’m hoping plenty of sensible people will make submissions on this.

Here’s a relavant media release, Bennetts approach leaves parents with no options.

This is the core of the bill, from the minister herself:

The proposed social obligations aim to reduce long-term welfare dependency and prevent the cycle of disadvantage continuing from parent to child. Beneficiaries with dependent children will be required to take “all reasonable steps” to have their dependent child:

  •  aged three or over, enrolled in and attending an approved Early Childhood Education Programme (ECE) until they start school
  •  enrolled in and regularly attending school from age of five or six (depending on when the child first starts school)
  •  enrolled with a primary health care provider, and up-to-date with the WellChild checks.
It might sound great, and well, it might save money, short term, and wouldn’t it be great if more families didn’t need to rely on the government to get by?  The problem is, is that it supposes that young children are better off in care of someone other than a parent, and that parents, often solo mothers, are better serving their families if they are working outside the home (and for money).  It also supposes that there are heaps of jobs out there that parents could apply for, jobs that pay alright, and are flexible enough to accommodate employees who have young babies and children.  You might also wonder if the childcare is of good quality, not overly expensive, accessible, flexible and would also be able to meet the needs of the families it is apparently meeting the needs of.

This may or may not be similar to your situation…

My husband works, and is studying, I’m at home with our two children, 4.5 and 2.5 we are beginning homeschooling, have play groups and outings with other friends with little children, and ECE and kindy in my area are of varying quality and do not follow my learning philosophy. All ok because we are ‘employed’. We go to our GP if and when we need to.

Suddenly, my husband loses his job, we decide that to make ends meet until he finds employment (or I do) we go on a benefit, as we are entitled to. Now, to ‘qualify’ we have to hand over some of our human rights, we are lesser parents, better to pull our family apart incase we get to comfortable on a benefit, because we need ‘incentive’ to find work. As if loss of/or lack of a job is not enough stress, the stress of leaving our children with strangers, (which would cost us money) and the stress that would cause our kids. And that’s ok?

We lose our rights? We are not entitled to care for our own children? This could happen to anyone.

My submission:

I OPPOSE Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill

The Human Rights Act of 1993 states, “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”. This new bill will breach human rights of parents who find it necessary to accept welfare payments. This bill targets vulnerable families and parents who are no doubt under stress, and is a heavy handed approach which I believe will not benefit at risk children.  Furthermore, parents who care for, and chose alternative paths of learning for their children are already meeting ‘social obligations’.

As a teenager, due to the sudden and accidental death of my father, my mother found herself a solo parent with four children to raise, and in need of government support, and ENTITLED to that support until such time as she would be able to support herself.  I have some understanding of the stresses parents in these situations face, and parents need support, rather than hardline coercion.  Children need to be with their family, and nurtured, they must not be treated as tools to force parents to comply with this bill.

Myself and my children are fortunate to be part of a family with both parents, and we have decided to home educate our children, and we are doing a great job, our children are not stressed and are learning in a way that is not possible for them, were they in ECE or primary school.  Should I find myself a solo mother, and in need of some government support, my rights (and those of my children) would be sidelined in order to meet these new requirements.

I find this bill to be totally unacceptable and recommend that it is rejected.


You can read about the bill here, read more submissions here, and make your own online submission here, you have until November 1, 2012.

An interesting article about the myth of ‘Early Learning’ from the intro:

Children should start attending school later, not earlier, Canadian development psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld reveals. “Early learning” programs for young children have no benefits for kids, he adds. So why are governments running down the opposite track?

Read the rest here.

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