Long term welfare dependency isn’t good for the recipients, their dependants, taxpayers or society.
Nor is giving people money without expecting something in return.
For too long people have been able to claim benefits with no social obligations in return. That is about to change.
Incorporating important health and wellbeing goals into welfare reform will help ensure children get the best possible start in life says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.
“Social obligations will ensure dependent children of beneficiaries access and benefit from vital education and health services,” says Mrs Bennett.
“These services are particularly important for vulnerable children as many currently miss out; we have an opportunity to address this through reforms.”
“These obligations are reasonable and achievable and they reflect the expectations most New Zealanders have of parents, this is a positive move for vulnerable families.”
Around 125,000 beneficiary parents support more than 220,000 children.
Social obligations require all beneficiary parents to ensure their children:
- attend 15 hours a week Early Childhood Education (ECE) from age 3
- attend school from age five or six
- enrol with a General Practitioner
- complete core WellChild/Tamariki Ora checks
This is not a punitive attack on parents, it’s a proactive move for the sake of children who are not receiving the care and services they need.
. . . “We are mindful there may be barriers like geographical location or capacity so parents will need to make reasonable steps to achieve these goals.”
Our intention is to work with and support parents to comply in the best interests of children and if they struggle to comply for any reason they could be referred to specific support services to get further help.
“But where barriers do not exist and parents don’t meet these obligations, graduated sanctions could apply,” says Mrs Bennett.
The graduated sanction process will see parents receive three reminder opportunities to comply before a maximum 50 per cent financial sanction applies.
“We have made it easy to re-comply, with plenty of opportunities and in the interests of the child, have capped the sanction at 50 percent.”
No-one will lose a benefit automatically, a lot of effort will go in to ensuring people do what is required of them for the sake of their children.
Parents may receive a higher level of case management support at any stage in the process if they are considered to be high risk, have complex needs or a level of vulnerability that requires additional support.
These social obligations will come into effect in July 2013 and cost around $1.4 million a year to administrate.
The first few years of life are important. Children who start school behind their peers are at a disadvantage which can dog them for the rest of their lives.
Critics of the policy ask why all parents aren’t to be faced with the same obligations.
It’s a fair question when at least some might be getting taxpayer support through in work tax credits.
But the policy is aimed at those who need it most because children of beneficiaries do worse than those of people in work even if they are on the same income.