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What Work Counts? Report questions work-first

What Work Counts? Report questions benefit of work-first policies

A new report from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) warns that the government’s single minded focus on parents’ work status sidelines the needs of children.

Economics spokesperson Claire Dale says Working for Families, introduced in 2004, was supposed to increase employment among sole parent families.

“The results have been very underwhelming, and the policy is misguided. In the recession sole parents have been losing jobs at a very high rate, and the number of sole parents on a benefit is now back where it was before the 2004 reforms.

“Children in these families are vulnerable to sudden and severe falls in income. A big factor in obtaining and keeping work is the availability of jobs, but children’s’ needs remain the same whether jobs are there or not,” she said. CPAG also warns that the changes proposed under the government’s Future Focus legislation which insist on 15 hours paid employment will worsen child poverty if parents are unable to find jobs.

The report shows parents face great difficulty trying to juggle raising their children, working, and dealing with the benefit system. Often it is not possible or sensible for sole parents to be in paid work and the government should respect the work they are already doing: “Raising children requires support on all fronts, not just getting parents into work.”

“New Zealand’s children have borne the brunt of changes in welfare, education, and the labour market in the last 20 years. If we leave their welfare to a minimal safety net we gamble with their futures.. Children’s needs must be at the centre of policy decisions – not a by product of an increasingly precarious and volatile labour market.”


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