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Solo Parent Figures Send Disturbing Message

Solo Parent Figures Send Disturbing Message

Friday 6 Dec 2002 Dr Muriel Newman Speeches -- Social Welfare

Statistics New Zealand today released information showing that, during the last decade, there has been a dramatic increase in sole parent families with children. From being 26 percent of all families with children in 1991, sole parent families have now risen to 31 percent of all such families.

In 1991 sole parent families made up 26 percent of all families with children in New Zealand. That number has soared to 31 percent of all such families.

According to data collected in the 2001 census, there are 140,175 sole parent families. That means that around three out of every ten families with dependent children are now sole parent families.

A total of 109,054 sole parent families receive the Domestic Purposes Benefit and constitute 79 percent of all sole parent families with children in New Zealand. In light of recent research from the Ministry of Social Development - which identifies the DPB as a risk factor for children - these statistics are shocking news. They highlight the fact that a large proportion of this generation of children are destined to have poorer health and education outcomes.

Perhaps even more worrying however, is that - in spite of these warnings - the Labour Government has relaxed the eligibility for the DPB. It will now be easier to get on and stay on, and harder to get off. Essentially, the 13 week stand down period has been scrapped, so a sole parent can quit work one day and go on the DPB to get more money. The benefit will be paid for up to a month for someone on an overseas holiday, and there is now no requirement for a sole parent to take a job until their youngest child is 18 years old.

The Labour Government is making the DPB a benefit for life for sole parents and their children - as long as they don't work, don't marry and don't let the other parent see their children for more than 40 percent of the time.

Tragically, a large proportion of children in sole parent families lose all effective contact with the non-custodial parent - usually their father. As a result, those children are more likely to go off the rails. In fact some studies have estimated that a 10 percent increase in family breakdown and fatherlessness will lead to a 17 percent increase in violent crime.

There is, reputedly, a new initiative in a mens' prison, where Mothers' Day cards were made available to the inmates. Almost all the prisoners sent cards to their Mums. When cards were made available for Fathers Day, there were no takers.

Our New Zealand welfare system pays families to split apart. As a result, we are now an OECD leader in family breakdown, child mortality, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, youth suicide and child offending.

The Census data revealed today should serve as a warning that, unless we change the system and introduce real welfare reform, these sobering statistics of failure will continue to get worse.


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