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Extent of DPB Dependence Surprises Ministry

Extent of DPB Dependence Surprises Ministry


The Ministry of Social Development has just published research that finds the length of time sole parents stay on the Domestic Purposes Benefit is greater than previously thought.

"This finding is in line with what I have been saying for many years, " said welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell. " The real level of dependence has been masked by the short-term and often repeat stays many sole parents experience."

The Ministry's new research finds;
On average, sole parents receiving main benefits had more disadvantaged backgrounds than might have been expected:
• just over half had spent at least 80% of the history period observed (the previous 10 years in most cases) supported by main benefits
• a third appeared to have become parents in their teenage years.
"The research also finds that of the teenage sole parents who went onto the DPB (or EMA) in the year to June 1996, over half received a benefit for eight or more years of the following ten. These recipients, along with others who became parents under twenty five years of age, were categorised as 'early starters' ; over half were Maori and due to larger family size, their children accounted for 45% of the total reliant on the DPB. The early starters also had the highest benefit-debt level and uptake of special needs grants for food; were also most likely to incur a penalty for failing to name the father of their child(ren); had the highest uptake of child disability allowance and lowest level of educational qualification.

"Unfortunately even the new research has limitations. For example it attempts to identify whether sole parents had become parents as teenagers by matching their age against the age of their oldest dependent child. But if the oldest child was over 18 he or she would no longer be officially dependent and would not appear in the data used."

"It is a great shame the Ministry has taken so long to produce this research which is now being euphemistically described as presenting a 'more disadvantaged profile than might have been expected.' "

Mrs Mitchell concludes, "One now wonders how long it is going to take the Minister and the National government to act on it."

ENDS

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