Hon PAULA BENNETT: For me this gets to the heart of the actual issue. So the member thinks that it is only the Government’s throwing money around and getting into every household and giving them 60 bucks a week for a newborn baby that is going to make the difference. I actually think it is not about just the Government; it is about the Government, community, and parents themselves actually putting their children first in many instances. It is about what is happening in the streets. It is about what organisations like the Salvation Army do. So I do not think it is a D for the Government. In fact, what the Salvation Army did say was that “as a national community,”— and I quote—“we have made credible and worthwhile social progress. It is important to acknowledge and celebrate this because, for the most part, it is intentional and hard won. The Government should be applauded for its contribution to this progress.” Paula Bennett
She was responding to a question on child poverty and she’s right.
Children are living in poverty for several reasons and there is no single or simple solution.
The government is helping with no assistance from the opposition who have resisted every measure to reform welfare which is one of the most effective ways to lift families from poverty.
However, government can’t replace parents who don’t put children first.
But it can make matters worse as Lindsay Mitchell observes on similarities between Maori and African American families on welfare:
. . . Both ethnicities had large families. So payments per child could mount up. The sums may have seemed relatively small to middle class families, but for people coming from a paltry income base – Maori from subsistence and African Americans from the abiding legacy of slavery – the sums were meaningful.
From there it is all too easy to understand how the male of these two cultures became increasingly dispensable. The state would provide a steady and guaranteed income if he disappeared. His absence might sometimes be ‘manufactured’ but in the final analysis, his financial utility was deeply degraded. He had a heavy weight competitor in the government.
(And still some politicians want to continue and even increase these types of ‘needy’ children policies ignoring the damage that visits on the family structure which best supports those kids financially and emotionally.)
One of the reasons for children in poverty is the breakdown of families and the replacement of a wage earner by a benefit.
The solution to that isn’t more welfare.