Welfare reforms to help children

OPINION – Lindsay Mitchell – NZ Herald 5 March 2012
…The new policy of requiring a mother to be available for part-time work when an additional child turns one represents the first attempt by a New Zealand government to stop beneficiaries exploiting the DPB (and other main benefits). Each year around 5,000 children are added. At any given time this results in almost a quarter of the DPB population having had extra children on welfare.

In 2006 deputy chairman of the NZ Medical Association Don Simmers told a conference that too many women were contemplating pregnancy on a benefit. More recently I spoke with the head of an organisation working with beneficiary families who was in no doubt that women plan a pregnancy as the prospect of pressure to work looms (there was a work-testing regime in place in the late 1990s). She believes the new policy will make a difference.

Some American states attempted to deal with the same problem by introducing ‘family caps’ which limited cash assistance to a fixed number of children and no more. The results were mixed and such a move here would be met with objections about depriving additional children, especially from the Child Poverty Action Group.

….Children who spend many years on the DPB generally have much poorer outcomes. This is well-documented. To knowingly exacerbate this situation by adding more children to a workless household can’t be defended at any level. In the interests of children the government is entirely justified in trying to break this habit.