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Dear Steve, save me the sociology lecture


DEAR STEVE, SAVE ME THE SOCIOLOGY LECTURE

An open letter to the Minister of Social Services, Steve Maharey, Sept 19, 2002

Dear Steve Maharey

Thank you for your response to my letter of August 6 concerning the domestic purposes benefit.

You write,"Your claim that 'the two-parent family ...is the natural and economically viable cornerstone of society' fails to take account of the existence of many other forms of family, whether in this society or in others. At any given time in a particular society, one form of family organisation is likely to be the most common. That may well mean that it is a reasonably efficient response to economic and social conditions in that society at that time. However to claim that this makes it 'natural' is an unfounded generalisation that ignores the diversity of the real world and suggests intolerance."

Yes, alright, save me the sociology lecture. I'm guilty of being intolerant. I'm intolerant of people who put themselves and their desires firmly ahead of their own children's health and happiness, intolerant of people who wouldn't know what 'commitment' was if they fell over it. I'm intolerant of Black Power fortresses where toddler's tricycles litter the pathways. As if it is not enough to have to pay for these people, now you want me to embrace them and their wrong headed view of life?

Mr Maharey, obviously not all of the people on the DPB present a problem. Some will do their level best to get off it as soon as they can, but these people would probably be better off (and a few thousand already are) on the unemployment benefit.

But then there is another group who are an undeniable cause for grave concern. They have shunned education, have no idea how to be a good parent and no interest in becoming one.

Their children are nuisances and intrusions on their own lifestyle, except when useful for concealing drugs or for sex. These parents are very likely to produce children who will follow in their footsteps. How big is this group? Do you or your Ministry have any idea?

There are those who 'legally' abuse the system. People who want children but don't want a partner and have no compunction in making the taxpayer foot the bill for their 'freedom' to choose an alternative family structure.

Other mothers co-habit in same-sex relationships and draw the DPB in addition to their partners working income. This is incomprehensible when a heterosexual couple doing the same would be in breach of the law. Ooops, there I go being intolerant again. All New Zealanders are equal but some seem more equal than others.

You said, "I flatly reject your assertion that government policy is scantily researched". Little over a year ago the Dominion quoted you as saying "New Zealand research on the problem is thin - the Social Policy Ministry is now compiling data."

I based my assertion on the fact that whilst drafting new policy, you were not even aware, despite the Ministry apparently "compiling data," that the average total time people spend on the DPB is at least six and a half years. In the United States, when average total time spent on their equivalent benefit reached 8 years they said 'enough'. Is this the benchmark we must reach before admitting we've got a problem?

Your letter finishes, "Putting draconian pressure on them (DPB recipients) is to threaten the well-being of their children." "Draconian pressure" describes the requirement for sole parents to work when it is available. Draconian means 'cruel'. I would be shocked if New Zealanders thought the expectation; a sole parent take a job if it was available, was 'cruel'. Many sole parents do work. Are these people inflicting a cruel punishment on themselves?

Face the truth. This reasonable recourse may be the only hope of improving their children's well-being.

You and I want the same thing - the best outcomes for children. Sadly our ideas about how to achieve this are miles apart.

Yours Sincerely

Lindsay Mitchell

Petitioner for a Parliamentary review of the DPB ph/fx 04 562 7944 e-mail dandl.mitchell@clear.net.nz

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