Tough Love on Welfare Will Actually Benefit Kids

Media Release 22 February 2011
Family First NZ says that a ‘tough love’ approach on welfare and benefits will actually be in the best interests of children and families. 

“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.”


4 comments for “Tough Love on Welfare Will Actually Benefit Kids

  1. dave
    21 February 2011 at 12:41 pm

    “As our marriage rates have declined, our welfare bill has increased”.

    No correlation.

    “In fact, the opposite is true.” I suppose working for families can be seen as welfare top up , that has reduced poverty immensly. Itwouldbe good to be advised how ” the opposite is true”

  2. Bob
    21 February 2011 at 1:53 pm

    At a Families Commission conference on Pacific Island welfare last year, they acknowledged that Working for Families gave initial relief, but didn’t last. And WFF was targeted at people including those with 6-figured incomes – so is not a valid comparison. And of course, WFF was for working families – not beneficiaries.

  3. bernice
    21 February 2011 at 11:58 pm

    I agree that one parent being in work is the best thing for families. I think that if beneficiaries are receiving 20 hours free child care then those hours should be used in paid work if it is available. I do not believe most parents need 20 hours child care, nor is it good for most children, if their parents are doing a decent job. An alternative is that parents could be attending parenting courses, budgeting seminars, low cost cooking lessons and so on to help them work better within their budget and improve their family circumstances where they need it.
    The obvious problem is that there aren’t the jobs available even if people are willing to work.
    People need to understand there is not a bottomless pit of money for ‘welfare’. Whilst it is very tough for some beneficiaries, there is free help available for many if they actually want to change and improve their situation, but many simply expect benefits to support them indefinitely. Not a good lifestyle for anyone, let alone families.

  4. 23 February 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Actually Bob, only the “In Work Tax Credit” is unavailable to beneficiaries.

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