Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
License needed for work use Register

Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


Social Security Bill’s ECE Obligations Breach Human Rights

Social Security Bill’s ECE Obligations Breach Human Rights

October 17, 2012

Palmerston North, NZ – Many New Zealanders are concerned that the new Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill will violate human rights.

The Home Education Foundation (HEF) of New Zealand is trying to raise awareness of the serious human rights implications of the bill. Under the bill, early childhood education (ECE) will be made compulsory for all children of beneficiaries from age 3 to when they start school at 5 or 6.

“Hundreds of parents have contacted me over the last few weeks really concerned about this new policy,” says HEF National Director Barbara Smith. “The Bill will compel them to leave their children in ECE for at least 15 hours per week, but they want to continue learning at home with their children.”

Mrs Smith cites research showing that children do better at home building quality relationships with their parents and siblings. “Dr Sarah Farquhar, a New Zealand academic, says that the family has a much greater impact on a child’s achievements than Early Childhood Education. Papers published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry have shown that more cognitive demands are placed on four-year- olds at home by mothers than at preschool by teachers, and that significantly more complex language is used at home by parents and children than at school by teachers and children.

“ECE really only benefits the few children who are suffering from neglect at home. By making ECE compulsory for all the children of beneficiaries, the government will actually force huge numbers of children away from the optimal environment—learning at home—into substandard education.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

“Shouldn’t this legislation be trying to help beneficiaries make good decisions, not forcing them into an educational model most of them don’t need?”

Under the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Article 26 (3), “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” Other UN conventions further entrench this right: Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights requires signatories “to have respect for the liberty of parents ... to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.”

According to the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, the NZ government has ratified both these treaties and is “taking progressive steps towards achieving them.”

But organisations like the Home Education Foundation believe that the Social Security Bill will breach this universal human right.

“Learning at home is a legitimate choice which every parent, even a beneficiary, should have the right to choose,” says Mrs Smith. “And no child should be forced to part from his or her parent for 15 hours per week.”

Mrs Smith shares some of the comments made in the submissions of single parents. One mother says, “We came out of a bad situation; I have kept my children safe and now I am being punished by not having the same rights as a mother not receiving a benefit.” She fears that other women will be reluctant to leave unsafe relationships if it means losing the right to be with their children.

Other mothers are concerned about their families’ futures. “I need some assurance that if my husband does lose his job and we end up on a benefit that we will not be subjected to harsh measures and coercive tactics,” says another.

One mother, abused in state care as a child, said “The thought of making a choice between leaving my children with strangers or being homeless by ‘benefit sanctions’ makes me feel physically ill.”

Mrs Smith argues that if parents know that ECE is available, they will make use of it if they want it. “But the Social Security Bill makes no provision for the parents who simply want the right to refuse.

“It’s an unacceptable breach of parental rights.”

Sumissions on the Social Security Bill are due 1 November 2012. For help in making a submission, visit


© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On The Government’s Smokefree Laws Debacle

The most charitable explanation for National’s behaviour over the smokefree legislation is that they have dutifully fulfilled the wishes of the Big Tobacco lobby and then cast around for excuses that might sell this health policy U-turn to the public. The less charitable view is that the government was being deliberately misleading. Are we to think Prime Minister Christopher Luxon is a fool or a liar? It seems rather early on in his term of office to be facing that unpleasant choice... More

Public Housing Futures: Christmas Comes Early For Landlords

New CTU analysis of the National & ACT coalition agreement has shown the cost of returning interest deductibility to landlords is an extra $900M on top of National’s original proposal. This is because it is going to be implemented earlier and faster, including retrospective rebates from April 2023. More

Green Party: Petition To Save Oil & Gas Ban

“The new Government’s plan to expand oil and gas exploration is as dangerous as it is unscientific. Whatever you think about the new government, there is simply no mandate to trash the climate. We need to come together to stop them,” says James Shaw. More

PSA: MFAT Must Reverse Decision To Remove Te Reo

MFAT's decision to remove te reo from correspondence before new Ministers are sworn in risks undermining the important progress the public sector has made in honouring te Tiriti. "We are very disappointed in what is a backward decision - it simply seems to be a Ministry bowing to the racist rhetoric we heard on the election campaign trail," says Marcia Puru. More




InfoPages News Channels


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.