Tough Love on Welfare Best for Families

Media Release 2 Nov 2011
Family First NZ says that a ‘tough love’ approach on welfare and benefits will actually be in the long-term best interests of children and families, and that the real ‘beneficiary-bashing’ is allowing dysfunction and long-term dependency to harm children and lock families into poverty.

“While we acknowledge the importance of welfare as a safety net for extreme circumstances, long-term welfare dependency reduces work effort, can promote the rate of unmarried teen mothers, exacerbates the problem of poverty-prone single-parent families, and reduces marriage rates,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. “The DPB has had the unfortunate side-effect of encouraging the formation of families by teenagers,”

“Long term dependency harms children through poorer social, health and educational outcomes. There is no evidence that increasing benefits and widening the net of welfare will improve children’s lives. In fact, the opposite is true.”

“According to Statistics NZ’s Income Survey for the June Quarter 2010, the poorest ethnic group in NZ is Asians, yet their children are not beset with the problems commonly attributed to low incomes. The Ministry of Social Development said that substantial research shows that ‘girls who grow up in families that receive welfare are themselves more likely to receive welfare once they are adults’. We need to break this cycle of dependency.”

“Other government research has shown that poor children reliant on government transfers, when compared with poor children reliant on market incomes, have lower living standards and a number of compounding shortfalls that can be expected to place them at greater risk of negative outcomes.”

However, Family First warns that any proposals to make parents of pre-schoolers work should not be at the expense of the important role of parents – especially sole parents – to meet the daily needs of their children.

“Part time work with flexibility would be a win-win situation but the age of the children is an important factor,” says Mr McCoskrie. “However, a disincentive to enlargen families currently dependent on welfare sends an important message.”

“It’s time that we acknowledged that the availability of welfare can play an important role in influencing family breakdown, and an example of this is that at least a third of current DPB recipients started on welfare as teenagers.”

“We also need to realise how demoralising and devastating an absence of work ethic – whether paid or voluntary – is to both adults and the whole family. At the moment, welfare simply isn’t working as it was intended,” says Mr McCoskrie. “Welfare needs to be a vital hand-up, not a hand-out with no expectations.”

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