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Welfare Reform Would Combat Teen Pregnancy

Thursday 30 May 2002

A programme of rigorous welfare reform is essential to help turn around our appalling teen pregnancy statistics - which are third-worst in the developed world - ACT Social Services Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said today.

"Easy access to the domestic purposes benefit is making young motherhood and state dependency seem like a viable lifestyle option for many teenage girls who may come from difficult family backgrounds. A young baby and the DPB may seem to them like an escape - when in fact it is a trap.

"Research I've done in the past shows that 70 percent of mothers who go on the DPB as teenagers never come off it. Some have been there for 30 years, raising their children without the support of the father.

"A welfare system that encourages young people to become dependent harms the very people it was meant to protect. Young teenage mothers find it difficult to fulfil their potential. Their children are at serious risk of poor outcomes in life. The state is a hopeless husband and an even worse father. Under a Labour Government the situation is destined to deteriorate through plans to liberalise the DPB so that young mothers will not be required to take a job until their youngest child is 18 years old.

"The ACT party believes that encouraging long-term dependency is wrong and proposes a thorough overhaul of the welfare system to help people help themselves.

"We will introduce maximum life time limits to the DPB of five years. This policy will be accompanied by guaranteed job placements for those who reach the time limit, with some discretionary exemptions. Extra childcare subsidies, intense individual placement support, and assistance with relocation expenses will all be available if needed.

"Additionally, all sole parent Beneficiaries who can work, and whose youngest child is of school age, will be required to participate in individually designed 40 hour a week programmes of work, training or organised job search. These activities will help to improve their chances of getting a good job, as well as assisting in the development of the habits, skills and disciplines needed in the workforce.

"Teenage mothers who choose to keep their babies must take responsibility for being the bread winner for their family and becoming a working role model for their children. ACT's overhaul of the welfare system will do just that," Dr Newman said.


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