Linking welfare to preschool attendance a world first

NZ Herald 13 Sept 2012
Experts believe the Government’s decision to tie welfare benefits to children’s preschool attendance may be unprecedented in the world. University of Auckland sociologist Maureen Baker and retired Massey University professor Mike O’Brien, who have both written books on international welfare reform, said they were not aware of any other country that had tried the idea. The new policy, which will halve parents’ benefits if their children don’t attend preschool for at least 15 hours a week from the age of 3, has come under attack across the spectrum from Labour on the left to the Christian-based Maxim Institute on the right. But in an unscientific survey of more than 11,000 Heraldonline readers, most supported the policy, with 32 per cent calling  “it could help the kids long-term”. Only 21 per cent felt it was “heavy-handed”, 7 per cent that “it will hurt the kids” and 13 per cent that it “needs testing”. Professor Baker said family allowances were tied to medical checks in France but she did not know of any country tying benefits to preschool attendance. Labour MP Jacinda Ardern said halving benefits for families that didn’t comply would “disadvantage the children who need that support the most”. Maxim Institute researcher Dr Jane Silloway Smith said beneficiaries should seek work in return for income support, but making them hand over their children to someone else would undermine