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ACT will stop welfare abuse

ACT will stop welfare abuse

Dr Muriel Newman
Monday, 18 July 2005
Speeches - Social Welfare

A primary school principal was recently describing the disastrous behaviour of children at her decile one school. She explained how most of the children came from broken homes where most of the parents are on welfare. She said many of them arrived at school without eating breakfast and without a packed lunch and that many did not have clean clothes and had not washed or brushed their teeth.

What she was describing was the inevitable consequences of a welfare system that undermines the importance of the traditional family unit and has now gone completely off the rails. The Domestic Purposes Benefit, instead of providing temporary support to women if their marriages break down, is now being used by thousands of mothers to raise children on their own. When those mothers are teenagers themselves, the results are a social disaster.

What I cannot understand is why there is not a grater backlash against the damage that the welfare system is causing. On a daily basis, children are now being born in New Zealand into welfare families, where they are doomed to fail to thrive and achieve their real potential, unless they are very lucky. Academics and professionals working in the field, and law makers alike fail to blow the whistle on what is going on preferring to turn a blind eye.

ACT has campaigned for welfare reform since first entering Parliament in 1996. While other parties have echoed our call, effective welfare reform will not occur unless ACT is elected back to Parliament on election day.

The reason is simple. Most political parties are mindful that the beneficiary lobby is powerful: it’s not just those receiving benefits, but the army of groups that work with them that are nervous about the effects of welfare reform. As one, young sole parent advocate once put it: “but if those solo mothers go back to work, they won’t have a job and what will I do then?”

ACT would cap the benefit for sole parents so that more children did not mean more money. ACT would require a parent to get a job once the children were all at school. Full support would be provided in terms of after-school care, transport and the like, but with evidence clearly showing that children raised in working families do better than children in welfare families, getting a parent into the workforce has to be an urgent priority.

Back in 1973 when the DPB was first established, officials predicted that it would never exceed 20,000. But with over 100,000 currently on the sole parent benefit and a set of incentives that enable women who find it tough in the workforce to quit their job one day and go on the benefit to get more money the next, the need for change is now urgent.

But reform is needed in other areas of welfare as well, particularly the Sickness and Invalid Benefits. Back in 1970, there were 8,000 on the Sickness Benefit and 10,000 on the Invalid Benefit, a total of 18,000. Today, there are over 135,000 adults supported by the Sickness and Invalids Benefits.

Since 1970, the population has grown 44%. If the Sickness and Invalids Benefits had only grown at the same rate as the population, there would only be 26,000 adults, not 135,000,

on the so-called Sickness and Invalids Benefits.

Clearly this is another area where major abuse of the welfare system is occurring, not only by individuals who are ripping off the system, but by Labour who is allowing it to happen.

If welfare was reformed properly, and abuse of the system eliminated, New Zealand could afford lower taxes into the foreseeable future.

ACT is the only party that believes New Zealand can become a prosperous nation once more with a far higher standard of living through tax cuts and welfare reform; if you too believe that these are important changes that need to occur for the sake of the future of all New Zealanders, then please give you Party Vote to ACT on election day.


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