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The "live to work" budget

The "live to work" budget.

"Dr. Cullen has finally answered the question, 'do you work to live, or live to work?', states Parents Centre President, Sharron Cole.

By raising to 50 hours a week the amount of subsidised childcare available to low income earners and allocating a further $350 million to advance industry skills and nothing to parents skills he is sending a clear message that parents should keep themselves at work for as long as possible and spend as little time with their children as work will allow.

"This is not business as usual, as the government has been at pains to point out" says Ms Cole "this is business as unusual. This is a ideological move to nationwide workaholism, and parental neglect. If you have your child in childcare for 50 hours a week you simply cannot do them justice as a parent. Children need more one-on-one time with their parents to bond and incorporate their parents' values and life teachings. If all that Dr. Cullen is giving the nations children is a few hours of overworked, burnt out parent a week, he might as well make childcare twenty four hour a day and be done with it."

Ms Cole went on to point out the misconception that parenting is about quality time. "As a parent you get to dictate the quantity of time, but your child decides whether it is quality time or not, and the chances of it being quality time if you are overworked is pretty slim."

This drive to get everyone into paid employment will come at a cost. While this government can boast about $4 billion surpluses, the legacy for the next generation of politicians will be more health issues, more social disorder, more youth leaving school with no sense of self or society. These people will identify better with violent cartoon characters than their parents, simply because they will have had a more stable, enduring relationship with them. They will drain the nations resources.

Parents Centre asks, where are the resources for parents in this budget? The Families Commission is a wonderful initiative but any useful product from the Commission is some years away. In the meantime, it seems, that the government is working hard to make parenting less attractive and work more so.

While they are doing everything they can to get parents into the workforce, they are not addressing economic pressures, such as the Student Loan Scheme, that are make it difficult for working women to start families?

Our national birthrate has been falling for over a decade and is 10% lower than it was in 1991. This clearly debunks the notion that New Zealand is a great place to raise a family, as fewer and fewer of our citizens are starting them. A line can be draw between initiatives from several governments, to make the work environment attractive and the parenting environment unappealing and expensive, and our falling birthrate. In this budget the government is allocating $167 million to recruit and train more teachers. With the current fall in birthrate we will need fewer teachers when the new recruits graduate than we need now.

The quality of our parents directly affects our welfare and security spending a generation down the line. If we want a nation of well adjusted, motivated, entrepreneurial or employable citizens then we need to ensure that they grow up in an environment that is loving, supportive and caters to their developmental needs. Our parents currently operate in an environment where all the government resources are put into failing families. This is a stark contrast to the business sector where the focus is very much on success. People can have children knowing nothing about parenting or child development and rather than helping them succeed the government would rather wait till they fail and then pour expensive resources to try to get them up to low baseline. Contrast this with the government focus on business having the skills it needs to succeed from the outset.

"We waste an awful lot of human potential simply because we fail to encourage and equip our parents to succeed. By comparison with other vocations, parents are very cheap to educate and support, and their learning has a wide impact on their community. There are a great many volunteer organisations doing their best on shoestrings to help parents to develop strategies for raising great children. In this budget government is telling those organisations to pack their bags."

"Last year Parent Centre gave training to 6,000 parents with government assistance of $38,000. The recent announcement of $37.5 million in support of a boat race being held by the Swiss make an interest statement of priorities," says Ms Cole.

"Our message to government is very clear." said Ms Cole. "People will always want to have families, it is a fundamental human drive. Even though government is making it harder and harder for people to have families, Parents Centre and other groups like us will always be there to support parents and help them get the skills and knowledge to raise children that they can be proud of."

Parents Centre has been educating and supporting parents for over fifty years. It is New Zealand's largest parenting organisation and operates from fifty-four centres throughout the country.

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