A change in mindset is credited for reducing the number of people on sole parent benefits to the lowest in two decades.
A single parents’ group says “a complete change of mindset” has helped reduce the number of people on the sole parent benefit to the lowest level in more than 20 years.
Numbers on sole parent support have plunged by 8600, or 10 per cent, in the year to March.
It is the biggest drop in a single year since the benefit – previously known as the domestic purposes benefit, or DPB – was created in 1974.
Sole parent support is now being paid to 75,844 sole parents, fewer than in any year in the DPB’s history since 1988.
About 22,000 people with no children under 14 were moved to other benefits when the DPB was abolished last July, but even if they were added back in, the total number of sole parents on any kind of benefit is the lowest since 1993.
Auckland Single Parents Trust founder Julie Whitehouse said tighter rules, which require sole parents to look for part-time work when their youngest child turns 5 and fulltime work when that child turns 14, had completely changed attitudes.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s so good that I can’t even get them to volunteer time. The whole mindset has changed.”
Asked how many of her 580 members now had jobs, she said: “The shift is incredible, I’m almost tempted to say 100 per cent – it really is big. All the attitudes changed. Everybody knew that when your child is 5 you have to go to work.”
The improvement is partly due to the economic recovery. Statistics NZ surveys show employment rose by 67,000 last year and the unemployment rate dropped from 6.8 per cent to 6 per cent.
But the 10.2 per cent drop in sole-parent welfare rolls in the year to March was almost twice the 5.3 per cent drop in jobseeker support. . .
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett explains what the reduction in people on benefits means for children:
We all know that one of the best things that we can do for children is to ensure their parents are in work and not on a benefit. The Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty report said that “having a parent in paid employment is the most important way to move a child out of poverty”. That is why I am so pleased to see that there are 8,600 fewer sole parents on a benefit, and there are also 17,700 fewer children now living in beneficiary households compared with March last year, and a whopping 29,500 children fewer than 2 years ago. This Government’s investment in supporting sole parents is paying off.
Alfred Ngaro: What else do the figures show about how welfare reforms are helping children?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Fewer teenagers are having babies and going on the benefit. There are fewer of those beneficiaries. That means that the fewer whom we have going on now, the fewer we will have in the longer term, because they are the group that is most likely to stay there the longest. Teen pregnancy is falling, with 3,303 babies being born to mothers under 20 in 2013. That figure is down by 36 percent from 2008.
Hon Anne Tolley: That’s excellent.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, it is. It is really amazing. The benefit figures also show a 13.4 percent decrease in young parents aged 18 and under getting the young parent payment. This is a significant policy development in this area, and one that is great for teenagers and those babies. . .
The opposition has fought welfare reform at every step.
But preventing people from going onto welfare and moving those on it into work as quickly as possible is the best way to reduce poverty.