“While we acknowledge the importance of welfare as a safety net for extreme circumstances, welfare dependency reduces work effort, can promote the rate of unmarried teen mothers, exacerbates the problem of poverty-prone single-parent families, and reduces marriage rates,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“The argument of the alternative welfare working group is that higher payments will reduce poverty and increase wellbeing. This is faulty logic. Higher payments actually encourage more unmarried births which typically result in long periods of welfare dependency, and long term dependency harms children through poorer social, health and educational outcomes. There is no evidence that increasing benefits and widening the net of welfare will improve children’s lives. In fact, the opposite is true.”
“According to Statistics NZ’s Income Survey for the June Quarter 2010, the poorest ethnic group in NZ is Asians, yet their children are not beset with the problems commonly attributed to low incomes. The Ministry of Social Development said that substantial research shows that ‘girls who grow up in families that receive welfare are themselves more likely to receive welfare once they are adults’. We need to break this cycle of dependency.”
However, Family First warns that any proposals to make parents of pre-schoolers work should not be at the expense of the important role of parents – especially sole parents – to meet the daily needs of their children.
“Part time work with flexibility would be a win-win situation but the age of the children is an important factor,” says Mr McCoskrie. “Long periods of childcare is not in the best interests of the child, except in the obvious case of neglected or abused children.”
“As our marriage rates have declined, our welfare bill has increased. It’s time that we acknowledged that the availability of welfare can play an important role in influencing family breakdown, and an example of this is that at least a third of current DPB recipients started on welfare as teenagers.”
“We also need to realise how demoralising and devastating an absence of work ethic – whether paid or voluntary – is to both adults and the whole family. At the moment, welfare simply isn’t working as it was intended,” says Mr McCoskrie. “Welfare needs to be a vital hand-up, not a hand-out with no expectations.”