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Brash's argument drives wedge between families

Families Commission

26 January 2005

Brash's argument drives wedge between families

The Chief Commissioner of the Families Commission says the impact of Don Brash's Orewa speech is to place New Zealand families in two camps.

Rajen Prasad says the thrust of the argument potentially drives a wedge between "kiwi battlers" and beneficiaries, especially those families supported by the domestic purposes benefit.

"Every New Zealander is part of a family. However the effect of the speech is to separate out families assisted by the DPB and portray all of them as long-term dependents holding New Zealand back. This view does not take into account the ways families' circumstances and needs change from time to time.

"People are more likely to move between the two groups than spend a life-time in one. Change may be brought about by separation, the formation of a new relationship, redundancy, or work opportunities," says Dr Prasad.

"Support is often necessary for short periods to ensure that families can function well and children are properly cared for. Many members of a wide range of New Zealand families have had to draw on the benefit system for short-term support".

Latest figures show that more than 40 percent of domestic purposes beneficiaries already work part-time. Fewer than ten percent are still on a benefit once their youngest is 14 years old.

The employment rate for all sole mothers has increased from 39.5 percent in 1999 to 45.3 percent at the end of last year.

There has also been a sustained increase in the proportion of DPB parents leaving the benefit for work, from 19 percent in 1997 to 36 percent last year.

However Dr Prasad says a single focus on employment overlooks the valuable contribution parents are making to society in raising their children well and playing key roles in their communities.

"The Families Commission, the advocate for New Zealand families, is interested in the best outcomes for all families. The public policy debate on families should be carefully considered so that all families, working and beneficiary, are appropriately supported.

"Best outcomes depend on a range of factors.This means looking seriously at issues like childcare, work/life balance, family-friendly work policies and family income assistance so that families can continue in their role of being the foundation of society." he says.

As part of its work the Commission has begun a major research project on the factors that lead to successful outcomes for families with dependent children. This research will produce evidence-based data to inform the policies of all political parties.

ENDS

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