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Safeguard families and protect the sacred role of parents

27 March 2012 Media release – for immediate release

From: Catholic Archdiocesan Justice Peace and Development Commission


Safeguard families and protect the sacred role of parents, Wellington Catholic Commission comments on welfare reform

Paid work should not always take priority over the sacred role given to parents as caregivers and first educators of their children, says the Wellington Archdiocesan Catholic Commission for Justice, Peace and Development.

As the Social Security (Youth support and work focus) amendment bill 2012 is read for the first time in Parliament on Tuesday 27 March, spokesperson for the Commission Teresa Homan said the group was opposed to measures that imposed additional work testing on parents of young children.

Mrs Homan said the Commission was deeply concerned that at a time when current tax policy has given more money to the better off in our society, those most economically and socially vulnerable are being ever more controlled. “The possibility of gainful employment and the importance of work are central concerns of Catholic Social Teaching but so is the safeguarding of the family unit.”

The legislation introduced today is the first of the government’s planned changes to the welfare system, under changes planned for the next two years. The Catholic Archdiocese of Wellington's Justice, Peace and Development commission has serious concerns about the government's welfare reform package. These concerns particularly focus on 3 areas of the package of welfare changes:

1. Legislation and social policy that devalues the role of parents as care providers.

2. The narrow focus on “work” as “paid employment”

3. Youth training being taken out of the education system and placed
in the hands of private providers.

Concerning #1: The Commission is concerned at proposals that sole parents will be required to find part time work when their child is five years old, or when the child is one if the child is born when their parent is receiving a benefit. The Commission considers these changes would have a wide impact and would enshrine the view that paid work has priority over the sacred role given to parents as the caregivers and primary educators of their children.

The Commission acknowledges and supports the many parents who wish to work while raising children, and acknowledges those who are able to do so. However, while not requiring mothers to stay at home with their children, Catholic social teaching recognizes their right to give first priority to raising their families. Forcing sole parents and young parents into any form of employment does not allow for the range of circumstances that some parents face.

Concerning # 2: The Commission is also concerned that the guiding principle of the new Social Security legislation appears to be that anyone who can work will work. While the question of work and decent employment are central to survival in contemporary society, paid work should not be an absolute value in the face of other human needs. We are concerned how this will impact on the sick and disabled. We believe it may be detrimental to a number of people who have medical conditions that limit their ability to participate in paid employment.

The Commission recognises that there are many people who suffer from health conditions or disabilities who wish to participate in paid work, but we also recognise that many are not able to sustain employment unless there is flexibility in the working environment which takes into account their needs.

Concerning #3: Youth training is vital to both the young person and the wider society. However we consider more could be done to access education and training within the formal education system. Welfare and education funding, need to be focused on addressing the social and educational needs of young people who are at risk of leaving the education system prematurely. There are examples within the education system of such adaptability and flexibility.

We have concerns about proposals that the State will use scarce welfare funding to set up privatized training for beneficiaries. Young people have a right to access this in the education system, and many could do this if options were adapted to meet their needs.

ENDS

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