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Reforms about stigmatising not improving welfare

9 May 2012: News from CPAG

Reforms about stigmatising not improving welfare

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says there is little that is common sense about the government’s latest tranche of welfare reforms.

Spokesperson Mike O’Brien says the reforms continue to ignore the fact that raising children is work, and that sole parents are doing the work of two people on their own.

“We remain concerned that there is no protection in the legislation currently before the Select Committee or in yesterday’s announcement for parents who are unwell. New Zealand research has shown over and again that many sole parents are sick or suffer addiction or mental health problems, yet there is nothing in the Minister’s statements that even attempts to deal with that. Likewise, there is nothing about caring for disabled or chronically ill children.

“It is also unclear what jobs parents will get, especially when they will be competing for suitable part-time work with unemployment, sickness and other beneficiaries. This seems more like a handout to employers rather than a rational welfare policy. The Minister’s paper[1] says the jobs will come but about 150,000 New Zealanders have been waiting for about three years now and there’s no sign things are improving,” said Mr O’Brien.

CPAG is also alarmed about the proposal for free long-term contraception for beneficiaries and their children.

“Our concern is twofold. First, it carries the message that beneficiaries and their daughters are incapable of making rational reproductive choices. This is not common sense as the prime Minister suggests, it is about stigmatizing and blaming.

“And second, why not make contraception free to all women without discrimination? There are plenty of women who would be grateful for some financial help with their family planning costs.”

CPAG says that if the government is serious about beneficiaries escaping the poverty trap, they would increase beneficiaries’ abatement-free earnings and reduce abatement rates on earned income. Increasing incomes will do much more to improve the lives of children in benefit households than any provision of free contraceptives.

“If this is about improving people’s welfare then we have to improve their incomes. There is nothing in the government’s package designed to do this.”


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