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Government wants the best for all NZ families

3 December 2003 Media Statement

Maharey: Government wants the best for all New Zealand families

Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey has told an international conference on families that government policies are directed at getting the best outcomes possible from the increasingly diverse range of New Zealand families.

Opening the Strengthening Families conference in Wellington this morning, Steve Maharey said that the traditional New Zealand family, with a father in full-time work supporting a wife at home and their children, is no longer the dominant model.

“New Zealanders now live in very different family arrangements and it is the government’s role to support them to ensure the best outcomes for children, women and men.

“We are not about to buy into the argument put forward by some people that we should be forcing New Zealanders back into the ‘traditional nuclear family’. This argument would see women forced out of the workforce and violent families kept together.”

“It is obvious that children benefit from being bought up by both of their parents if they can live together in harmony. But we also have to pay attention to the many families where this is not the situation.”

Steve Maharey outlined government policies to assist families, which are now achieving good results including:
- early results from the package of benefit reforms targeted at helping parents into employment which reveal that 80 percent of sole-parent beneficiaries have now completed a personal development and employment plan, with a third committing themselves to undertaking education and training. This figure rises to 40 percent for parents of children aged between 1 and 7;
- the introduction of paid parental leave which has allowed more mothers to breastfeed their children. All available evidence shows breastfeeding has a long-term positive health impact on children; and
- the reduction in unemployment rolls which has seen the number of couple families with children reliant on a benefit falling by 36 percent over the past 5 years.

“These are important and practical achievements which we intend to build upon in next year’s Budget to ensure New Zealand families are able to stand up the riggers of modern life,” Steve Mahaery said.

ENDS

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