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Latest changes to welfare benefits place children at risk

Latest changes to welfare benefits place children living in poverty further at risk.

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has criticised the government's new welfare initiatives for placing vulnerable children living in poverty further at risk.

CPAG spokesperson Assoc. Professor Mike O'Brien says the new legislation picks up the recommendations of the Welfare Working Group (WWG) and focuses on moving people off welfare rather than providing an adequate and secure income for children.

Assoc. Prof O'Brien says families struggling on low incomes are often poorly housed or move frequently and have limited access to primary healthcare. "These children are already vulnerable and as of today they are even more at risk."

"Already hundreds of families with children have had their benefits cut and this new legislation increases the chances of this happening. Paula Bennett needs to explain how cutting benefits to families fits with her desire to protect vulnerable children."

"Neither the WWG nor the government has demonstrated that the new obligations are actually required or whether they will be effective. Nor have they demonstrated that the behaviour of beneficiary parents is so different from everyone else that these intrusive new obligations are required."

The new legislation effectively lowers the compulsory schooling age for the children of beneficiaries to three years old, as it requires the children of beneficiaries to attend early childhood education.

"Our research suggests that the biggest barrier to children not participating in Early Childhood Education is a lack of affordable facilities in poorer areas. It's not good enough that these parents are now subject to sanctions should their children not be attending ECE, yet there have been no serious efforts to address the shortage of affordable day care," says Assoc. Prof O'Brien.

Instead of targeting beneficiary parents, the government needs to pay more attention to ensuring there are secure, well paid jobs available for all parents when they are able to take up paid work said Assoc. Prof O'Brien.


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