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Home Educators Appeal To Human Rights Commission

Media Release – Home Educators Appeal To Human Rights Commission On ‘Discriminatory’ Social Security Bill
January 22, 2013

Palmerston North, NZ – As the government’s Select Committee ponders submissions on the proposed Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill, home educators across New Zealand continue to hope that their concerns over discrimination and other breaches of human rights in the Bill will be heard and addressed. Meanwhile the Home Education Foundation (HEF), which has been advocating parental rights in New Zealand for close to three decades, considers the human rights problems in the Bill serious enough to lay before the Human Rights Commission.

Barbara Smith, National Director of the HEF, says that the decision to contact the Commission was not taken lightly.

“Many organisations from religious bodies to law centres and women’s rights advocates raised the same concerns in their submissions,” she says. “Additionally, most of the submissions on the Bill came from parents who would be discriminated against by the social obligations in the Bill.”

The “Social Obligations” contained in the Bill require all beneficiary parents to ensure that their preschool-aged children attend an accredited Early Childhood Education provider, register their children with a primary health care provider and ensure that their children attend all the core Well Child checks.

According to the Law Society of New Zealand, these social obligations stigmatise beneficiaries as being unable to care for themselves or their children and will likely result in discrimination on the basis of employment status, which is prohibited by section 19 of the Bill of Rights Act.

The Dunedin Community Law Centre highlighted the discrimination involved in the Bill. “These proposals imply that beneficiaries are bad parents who do not know what is best for their children.” This was echoed in many of the submissions. “This Bill creates a category of citizen who has fewer choices and less autonomy simply because they are in receipt of a benefit,” said the Parish Council of St Andrew’s on the Terrace. A private submission stated, “The implication of the bill is that beneficiaries do not see to the necessary health needs of their children…It is a stigma for beneficiaries, rather than a social good for all.”

Others have pointed out the breach of parental rights that results from parents being unable to choose a more natural or home-based approach to preschool and health care. Many parents making submissions on the Bill objected to being forced to send their preschool children to ECE, whether or not the child is ready or the family wishes to provide quality ECE in their own home.

Many of the organisations making submissions also believed that it is not the role of the state to supplant legitimate parental choices. “Social obligation requirements take away the rights of parents to choose what is best for themselves and their families,” said the Auckland Women’s Centre. “Furthermore, some parents want to have a choice about the educational environment they put their children into. Not all ECE is suitable for all children. Some parents choose to home school their children.”

The rights of children are another consideration. One family objecting to the Bill shared how one of their children was unready to attend preschool at the usual age. The parents, unable to force their child to undergo the emotional trauma of being left in ECE all day, elected to keep her at home. “We currently have the financial wherewithal to do exactly as we see fit—but that could change in a heartbeat,” they said in their submission. “In the event of death or illness we would not only become dependent on a benefit—we’d also have our rights as parents trampled upon.”

Other organisations expressed concern over the fifty per cent benefit cuts envisioned for families who fail to comply with the “social obligations”, objecting that the children in such families are likely to suffer unacceptable harm through the loss of basic income.

“We agree with the hundreds of parents and dozens of organisations who have expressed their concern about the Bill,” says Mrs Smith. “Our concerns include discrimination against the unemployed, parental rights to choose children’s education and health care, women’s rights to choose domestic work instead of employment, and children’s rights to access the best available education without being deprived of basic income.

“We are asking the Human Rights Commission to make strong objections to the human rights violations in the Bill, and to defend the rights of beneficiaries with legal action if necessary.”

The Home Education Foundation urges all concerned New Zealanders to contact their local MP about the human rights problems in this bill. More information on the bill can be found at www.hef.org.nz.

About the Home Education Foundation

The Home Education Foundation has been informing parents for 28 years about the fantastic opportunity to de-institutionalise our sons and daughters and to embrace the spiritual, intellectual and academic freedom that is ours for the taking. Through conferences, journals, newsletters and all kinds of personal communications, we explain the vision of handcrafting each child into a unique individual, complete with virtuous character, a hunger for service to others, academic acumen and a strong work ethic. For more information, please visit www.hef.org.nz or more specifically hef.org.nz/2012/make-a-submission-reject-compulsory-early-education-for-3-year-olds/


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