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Social Security Bill Work Focus Will Make Life Hard for Mums

Social Security Bill Work Focus Will Make Life Harder for Mums

Palmerston North, February 20, 2013 – While the “social obligations” in the government’s Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill promise to disadvantage children, a number of groups have highlighted the additional disadvantages women will face under the benefit reforms, says Barbara Smith of the Home Education Foundation (HEF).

Under the work focus provisions of the Bill, mothers will need to work 15 hours per week once their youngest turns 5 and 30 hours per week once their youngest turns 14.

“Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett believes mothers should work because being jobless is demoralizing,” says Mrs Smith. “But mothers with children to care for are not jobless.”

In a press release dated 12th September 2012, Ms Bennett cited statistics showing that sole parents receive 23% of the costs of welfare. She said, “We can do much better than this, by providing more support to sole parents and others who’ve historically received very little help to get off welfare.”

“This makes it clear that her plan to cut welfare spending relies on getting single mothers away from their children and into the workforce,” says Mrs Smith. “While many women are happy to work to support their families, it’s disgraceful that women with very young children and women who choose the full-time job of educating their children at home right through secondary school will be forced into the workplace under this bill.

“I have heard from hundreds of women who are concerned that their way of life will be threatened by this bill.”

It’s no surprise, says Mrs Smith, that many women’s groups have expressed their concern with the Bill’s relentless work focus provisions for sole mothers.

According to the Beneficiary Advisory Service, the work focus provisions of the Bill “will impact heavily on young women who are caring for an infant” and the resulting stress and anxiety will pose a risk to both mother and child.

The Auckland Women’s Centre “considers that it is a crucial component of the well-being of our society that extra restrictions and difficulties are not enshrined in legislation that will result in limiting a sole-mother’s ability to provide dedicated, quality parenting to their children.” Domestic work, they argue, forms “a normal part of many women’s lives rather than a deviation from male patterns of employment.”

The Psychological Society of New Zealand also found the work focus troubling. “There are many of those who live in Aotearoa/NZ who contribute in alternative ways e.g. a young Maori woman called to care for her sick kuia, voluntary activities for children within a church or a person with a disability acting as an advocate.”

Te Whaainga Wahine, a national network advocating the rights of Maori women, argued that the amendments will compromise the rights of Maori women to care for, protect, and make decisions in the best interests of their tamariki, mokopuna and whanau.

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom also believed that the work focus provisions would disadvantage women. “It will create extra stress for people who should be work exempt because they are caring for children. The care of children is not given due importance and this amendment appears to be a punitive measure for those who dare to have another child when they are on a benefit.”

“It’s reasonable to say that the Bill will cause serious disadvantage to women,” says Mrs Smith.

Concerned New Zealanders should write, call, and visit their local MPs and the Select Committee, Mrs Smith urges.

Tell your friends. Make appointments to see the Committee members or your local MP.

“Caring for children and whanau is a real job with real value to society. All women, including beneficiaries, should be able to do the work they are called to.”

The Select Committee members are Jacinda Ardern, Simon Bridges, Melissa Lee, Jan Logie, Asenati Lole-Taylor, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, Tim Macindoe, Alfred Ngaro, Rajen Prasad, Mike Sabin and Su’a William Sio. Letters to individual MPs should be sent to this address (no stamp necessary):

Parliament Office
Private Bag 18888
Parliament Buildings
Wellington 6160

More information on the bill and contact details for MPs can be found at http://hef.org.nz/2013/urgent-action-required-social-security-bill/

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/

ENDS

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