Children of parents on benefits are losing ground under the
new welfare reforms, the Child Poverty Action Group says.
CPAG spokesman Associate Professor Mike O'Brien said the
children of beneficiaries were being singled out for
different treatment under the Government's new welfare
A background study by CPAG on benefit sanctions found the
children of beneficiaries were now subject to a set of rules
which other children were not required to meet.
The changes risked creating a separate, disadvantaged class
of children whose activities were unjustly restricted for
reasons beyond their control, Mr O'Brien said.
Calling for children to be compulsorily enrolled into Early
Childhood Education (ECE) from the age of three put
children's needs second to the Government's focus of moving
parents off benefits and into the workforce, he said.
"So far the Government has yet to establish the need for the
new rules and what they will achieve."
Through no fault of their own, vulnerable children had been
given a new set of rules to follow, Mr O'Brien said.
It was once considered important for parents to attend to
their young children full-time as a benefit to society, with
their growth and development provided by sessions at
Playcentre and Kindergarten, he said.
High quality ECE services in poorer areas were lacking and
CPAG was concerned children would end up in home-based care
or playgroup services with minimal contact with qualified
teachers, Mr O'Brien said.
Benefit sanctions also needed monitoring as they were
creating an invisible underclass.
The Government had introduced wholesale changes affecting
children without robust systems of accountability or public
scrutiny in place, he said.
While the Government continued to state its commitment to
vulnerable children, the benefit sanctions left struggling
families to fend for themselves.
Welfare recipients who did not meet the new conditions faced
increasing sanctions - up to a 100 per cent cancellation of
all income support, he said.
"The reality of reducing or cancelling a benefit is that
children of struggling parents are placed at greater risk."
The CPAG report urged that the sanctions be monitored,
particularly for sole parents, Mr O'Brien said.
"The Government needs to assess whether the system is
creating additional hardship by churning people in and out of
the benefit system."
The Government's Green Paper for Vulnerable Children - Every
child thrives, belongs, achieves - advocated child-centred
policies to protect New Zealand's most vulnerable citizens,
CPAG wanted the sanctions to be repealed to safeguard the
wellbeing of vulnerable children, Mr O'Brien said.