Catherine Delahunty
Happy Christmas Minister; what about child poverty?

It seems Paula Bennett has been reading my Christmas message. She asked me to sing some of it in the House yesterday:

However I wasn’t in the House for the purpose of entertaining the Minister. I wanted to know if she was prepared to meet with the Alternative Welfare Working Group, whose report was launched yesterday.

The report covers ground that the Government’s Welfare Working Group and the Minister of Social Development are ignoring, and includes an examination of the values behind welfare as well as some suggestions for a fairer society and better solutions than what we currently enforce on the poor. These suggestions include policies to promote decent jobs, health care for all, reducing the barriers to paid employment for people with disabilities, eliminating the punitive culture at Work and Income, and making benefit levels adequate to support people out of poverty.

Paula Bennett, however, was keen to talk about my Co-Leader Russel Norman’s imminent fatherhood and how lovely it is to have children, while ignoring the dire situation of a third of children in this country who live beneath the poverty line.

I suggest that she comes down to the nearest foodbank and we can have a jolly sing song with the people seeking food so we can all celebrate her Government’s policies. I am sure the people at the foodbank would also have opinions on her welfare reforms.

In the meantime I pay my respects to the Alternative Welfare Working Group for its report Justice for All (PDF). A great effort – minus fees, consultants and contracts. The Green Party stands alongside them with our solutions and ideas.  We are willing to engage with the challenges, unlike the Government which is manufacturing a “crisis” in welfare as an excuse to cut expenditure. Let’s by all means debate the issues and review the Social Security Act, but not via a mean-spirited attack on our most vulnerable citizens.

23 thoughts on “Happy Christmas Minister; what about child poverty?

  1. Thanks for posting the AWWG report, I meant to get there but couldn’t manage it on the day. Will read with interest.

    The Minister for Social Development seems to have a grand dose of amnesia about the actualities of solo parenthood, which is ironic in someone who represents West Auckland. Perhaps she needs to spend benefit day down at the Henderson Mall meeting a few of her constituents to refresh her memory!

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  2. How about changing policy that encourages people who can’t afford to have children to have more than those who can.

    When you encourage those least equiped financially (and often lacking in other areas) to have more children than anyone else, you will get MORE children in poverty – not less.

    What a surprise.

    And what’s the green answer – to give them more encouragement?

    All you are doing is trying to find solutions to a problem that you are making bigger.

    Without doing anything to address the causes.

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  3. Sorry Phutunz1, I think what happens with most children is that they are born to stable, two parent househiolds. Shit happens and we have a one-parent household. If the parent has to leave the paid work force they are on an income that is unsustainable long-term yet are in a society that provides insufficient jobs that cater, are faced with inadequate, inflexiblwe child care, hves an abatement system that has effective tax rates of near 100% for a lengthy period, and a rule-based benefit system with W&I staff who have attitudes similar to the amensia suffering Minister thus it is little wonder that as time on the benefit grows savings dwindle and the children become victims of entrenchened poverty. Little wonder really.
    And I know some beneficiaries have children, so what…. some politicians have tried to make it so people of a certain group can not have children…there is a term for it…
    Seldom is the additional FTC provided the reason for the activities leading to the birth. The FTC for the second and subsequent child is simply not worth it.

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  4. People need to think before making decisions, especially when it comes to having children or a family. There are a lot of cases of divorce and when there are no kids yet it’s acceptable but what happens when you can’t provide for your kids? Think before making harsh decisions, always!

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  5. I was thinking of doing a submission to the working group but the questions are so rigged it seems as if they are putting words in my mouth.

    I ask Catherine;is it worth it? Anyway I pinned up your Christmas carrol on our notice board at Lake Coleridge.

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  6. photonz

    We have trialled increased child support to see whether it would reduce child poverty or just grow families larger and result in having more children in poverty. WFF. The result is that child poverty was reduced to the children of parents on benefits.

    Of course there are those who oppose WFF and any increase in benefits – because they don’t want the poor to have or afford having children. Now that is what defines either class war or self-interest amongst those who are not poor. But they should not pose as concerned for children when arguing that policy line should they?

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  7. SPC; So what you are saying is that children should not be used as political footballs between two (mostly the victim of one) opposing ideologies. If that is what you mean I say NO.

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  8. British Labour MP Frank Field’s report on this makes stark reading. He suggests that increasing benefits is not the answer, the issue lies in parents giving children attention in the first five years of life (particularly talking, reading, mental stimulation) and showing a high degree of interest in their education. It is telling that children of poor immigrant families from South Asia or Chinese backgrounds outperform children of poor British families, because the attitudes to education, hard work and initiative are so much different. These aren’t attitudes you can create by paying people other people’s money to do nothing.

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  9. What a terrible attitude Libertyscott and photonz1. Benefits exist so that people who cannot find work or are not able to work are able to buy food and shelter. We have it because we live in a civilisation. What is your solution, people living in caves again?

    So answer me this: would you prefer New Zealanders to have enough children so that we did not have to have such a robust immigration system. You can’t have it both ways.

    Beneficiaries are not getting paid to do nothing, they’re being provided for because mechanisation has meant people no longer have to dig fields by hand. They still have to buy produce the farmer and his tractor provide. A benefit is the only way to resolve the effects of mechanisation. Whether you view this as a positive or negative is up to you.

    Children of beneficiaries will in fact have more of a chance to achieve a good education, hard work ethics and initiative if they are properly fed, clothed, and live in a good house in a good area. This enables young people to learn properly. It’s pretty simple really. If you dress a kid in rags, starve them or feed them bad cheap food and don’t warm their home so they are sick all the time (child poverty), they will not grow up to be a productive member of society. They will grow up to fill our jails. In some cases they will not grow up at all.

    There is a direct relationship between our growing impoverished children and high incarceration and crime rate. If we ensure that those impoverished children are properly provided for in the first instance, then we will resolve much of the subsequent expensive social dysfunction that follows. Child poverty is the main concern in fixing our social ills. There will be a high price to pay for further entrenching poverty, far more than any short term savings the National Government thinks it will achieve.

    Frank Field’s is a twat! If a parent can’t afford to look after their child properly because benefits haven’t kept up with inflation, how is that parent supposed to provide for that child? It’s all very well reading to a child, but if that child is hungry, he/she will not be listening to anything but hunger pains.

    Giving people enough money to bring their children up properly no matter their situation is the only way to resolve childhood poverty. Saying poor people should not breed because they’re poor and limiting their income further to try and stop their procreation is a fascist ideal that needs to be put in the rubbish bin where it belongs.

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  10. Saying poor people should not breed because they’re poor and limiting their income further to try and stop their procreation is a fascist ideal that needs to be put in the rubbish bin where it belongs.

    Todd, why should we as taxpayers pay for the larger than normal families that poor people have? If you cannot feed your children as it is, then why should you have more of them – that defies logic, and can only occur without severe consequence in New Zealand because of the social welfare system that increases payments for the number of children – even if the parents were already in welfare.

    Benefits exist so that people who cannot find work or are not able to work are able to buy food and shelter. We have it because we live in a civilisation. What is your solution, people living in caves again?

    Todd, benefits exist so that people who are out of work for no fault of their own can survive. It was never meant as a lifestyle choice for people, and I suspect that even Michael Joseph Savage would be turning in his grave over the tens of thousands of people who have decided to make a lifestyle out of being on welfare.

    So answer me this: would you prefer New Zealanders to have enough children so that we did not have to have such a robust immigration system. You can’t have it both ways.

    Why not allow the population to decrease instead? At a rough estimate, the population of our planet is at least twice the number that is ideal from a sustainability perspective. I see no reason why it should be between immigration and breeding – why not just let the population of our planet decrease?

    Children of beneficiaries will in fact have more of a chance to achieve a good education, hard work ethics and initiative if they are properly fed, clothed, and live in a good house in a good area. This enables young people to learn properly. It’s pretty simple really.

    Todd, if you do that, then those children will not see their parents engaging in normal habits such as getting up in the morning and heading off to work, and coming home in the evening after a hard day at work. They will perceive being on welfare as somehow being “normal”.

    Also, how many welfare children have gone on to get University degrees and perform very well? I doubt that many would have.

    There is a direct relationship between our growing impoverished children and high incarceration and crime rate.

    And where was the spike in New Zealand’s crime rate in the 1930s? I am pretty sure that our children were very impoverished during that decade, and yet there was no spike in crime, and very very few of them grew up to become criminals.

    If a parent can’t afford to look after their child properly because benefits haven’t kept up with inflation, how is that parent supposed to provide for that child?

    Perhaps by learning to use their funds properly. Why not stop consuming illicit drugs, or smoking cigarettes, or drinking alcohol, or putting that money into the pokies, or why not cut off the Sky TV subscription (it is always disturbing to see the number of Sky TV dishes in Otara and other high welfare areas). Put that money instead into buying food and other necessities.

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  11. Given that the children of extremely wealthy people grow up to use much more resources than the poor. I suggest that anyone with over 2 million in assets is not allowed to breed.

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  12. john-ston

    Why should we as taxpayers pay for the larger than normal families that poor people have?

    There is no evidence that beneficiary families have more children than working families. You’re buying into the propaganda. We should provide for people who cannot provide for them selves because we’re civilised and not dogs. How much exactly does a beneficiary get when they have a child? Maybe look into the facts before you start talking about something you know little about.

    Michael Joseph Savage would be turning in his grave over the tens of thousands of people who have decided to make a lifestyle out of being on welfare.

    Mr Savage would be turning in his grave to see tens of thousands of New Zealand children living in poverty because of a fascist political climate that is pervading our country.

    Most beneficiaries don’t choose to go on the dole; they have little choice in the matter.

    Why not just let the population of our planet decrease?

    Yes! Through education, not by repressing the impoverished further.

    I would suggest that Rodney Hide’s child be removed from him because he is a perverse and corrupt individual who is not fit to be a parent. Just because he has money, does not mean he is a good father. Take Paul Holmes’ daughter for instance, having money is no guarantee that your child will not be a rat bag. It just means they’re more likely to get away with it.

    They will perceive being on welfare as somehow being “normal”.

    No! They will perceive being fed, clothed and housed properly as being normal.

    And where was the spike in New Zealand’s crime rate in the 1930s?

    Are you trying to say that the poor are not more likely to end up in jail?

    Perhaps by learning to use their funds properly.

    Most beneficiary families do use their funds properly. They usually don’t have enough to purchase the basic necessities and pay their bills and rent. Especially in light of the recent GST rise and other increased expenses. Many beneficiaries will not have a Christmas.

    You seem to have a very negative view of beneficiaries john-ston, when most are normal people trying to make the best of a bad situation.

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  13. There is no evidence that beneficiary families have more children than working families.

    Then explain to me why I see very low median ages in areas which a high proportion of beneficiaries. Places such as Otara have nearly a third of their population being aged 15 or younger, compared with a fifth for Auckland as a whole.

    You’re buying into the propaganda.

    How can it be propaganda when you have a third of all the residents in an area such as Otara being aged 15 or younger?

    We should provide for people who cannot provide for them selves because we’re civilised and not dogs.

    If the circumstances were outside their control. If a woman has her partner run away from her, then I have no problem with providing a benefit for her. If that woman has been receiving a benefit for several years and has children during that time, then there is a problem.

    How much exactly does a beneficiary get when they have a child?

    An additional $75.84 (see the 16th Schedule to the Social Security Act).

    Most beneficiaries don’t choose to go on the dole; they have little choice in the matter.

    I would agree that the majority of beneficiaries do not choose to go on the benefit – and that is what a benefit system is there for. Unfortunately, there is a disturbingly high number of beneficiaries who not only choose the benefit as a lifestyle, but attempt to bleed the taxpayer dry in order to maintain a work free lifestyle.

    No! They will perceive being fed, clothed and housed properly as being normal.

    All at the expense of the taxpayer! We need people to realise that if you want to get stuff, then you need to work very hard at it – it doesn’t come on a plate.

    Are you trying to say that the poor are not more likely to end up in jail?

    Yes actually, I am trying to say that there is something else that results in people going to prison. If poverty and prison were so directly co-related, then why wasn’t there a such a severe spike in the crime rate in the 1930s?

    Most beneficiary families do use their funds properly. They usually don’t have enough to purchase the basic necessities and pay their bills and rent. Especially in light of the recent GST rise and other increased expenses. Many beneficiaries will not have a Christmas.

    While some beneficiary families might, there are far too many beneficiaries who are smoking, drinking alcohol, gambling at the pokies and watching Sky TV. If they quit the fags and spent their money on feeding their children instead, then perhaps we wouldn’t have such a problem.

    You seem to have a very negative view of beneficiaries john-ston, when most are normal people trying to make the best of a bad situation.

    Some might be, but when you see a disturbingly high number of Sky TV dishes in Otara, you must start asking some searching questions.

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  14. John-ston

    How can it be propaganda when you have a third of all the residents in an area such as Otara being aged 15 or younger?

    Please link to specific reports or statistics, not your own observations john-ston.

    All at the expense of the taxpayer! We need people to realise that if you want to get stuff, then you need to work very hard at it – it doesn’t come on a plate.

    Um! Food comes on a plate. If there are no jobs to work for that food, then it should still be provided. The same goes for other aspects of existence. That is civilization for you john-stone.

    then why wasn’t there a such a severe spike in the crime rate in the 1930s?

    There were two depressions in the thirties, the first started in 1929 and then we had WW2. I’m unsure if your assumption that there was less crime in that time is correct. In fact I view war as a crime. WW2 was certainly fuelled from the impoverishment of the 30’s depressions.

    If they quit the fags and spent their money on feeding their children instead, then perhaps we wouldn’t have such a problem.

    The same can be said about rich people.

    Some might be, but when you see a disturbingly high number of Sky TV dishes in Otara, you must start asking some searching questions.

    There is a very small amount of funds in each benefit for entertainment. Entertainment is an important part of our Kiwi way of life especially so with increased leisure time. Many of those aerials will not be getting used; sky leaves them on the buildings. I fail to see the relevance of your argument, as there are more sky aerials being used in Remuera etc.

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  15. An additional $75.84 per week.

    Try living on that then john-ston and get back to me huh!

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  16. Please link to specific reports or statistics, not your own observations john-ston.

    Otara West – http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2006CensusHomePage/QuickStats/AboutAPlace/SnapShot.aspx?type=au&ParentID=1000002&ss=y&tab=Agesex&id=3523402

    Otara South – http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2006CensusHomePage/QuickStats/AboutAPlace/SnapShot.aspx?type=au&ParentID=1000002&ss=y&tab=Agesex&id=3523601

    Otara North – http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2006CensusHomePage/QuickStats/AboutAPlace/SnapShot.aspx?type=au&ParentID=1000002&ss=y&tab=Agesex&id=3523501

    Ferguson – http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2006CensusHomePage/QuickStats/AboutAPlace/SnapShot.aspx?type=au&ParentID=1000002&ss=y&tab=Agesex&id=3523602

    Otara East – http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2006CensusHomePage/QuickStats/AboutAPlace/SnapShot.aspx?type=au&ParentID=1000002&ss=y&tab=Agesex&id=3523502

    I could go on, but I think you get the picture. A night with the Interactive Boundary Map on the Department of Statistics website would be interesting.

    Um! Food comes on a plate. If there are no jobs to work for that food, then it should still be provided. The same goes for other aspects of existence. That is civilization for you john-stone.

    If there are no jobs to work for that food, then I don’t have a problem with the beneficiary being provided with a basic income because that situation is outside the control of the beneficiary!

    There were two depressions in the thirties, the first started in 1929 and then we had WW2. I’m unsure if your assumption that there was less crime in that time is correct. In fact I view war as a crime. WW2 was certainly fuelled from the impoverishment of the 30’s depressions.

    Todd, let me remind you that until the early 1970s, the rate of homicide in New Zealand was very low. A massive spike in crime in the 1930s would have been noticed, and yet there wasn’t such a thing – I wonder why…

    Also, you might consider war to be a crime, but that is between nations. The crime that I am thinking of is between people.

    The same can be said about rich people.

    The last time I checked though, the bad habits of rich people were not having severe negative effects on their children.

    There is a very small amount of funds in each benefit for entertainment. Entertainment is an important part of our Kiwi way of life especially so with increased leisure time. Many of those aerials will not be getting used; sky leaves them on the buildings. I fail to see the relevance of your argument, as there are more sky aerials being used in Remuera etc.

    The relevance is that Sky TV costs money, and we can both agree that is something that beneficiaries do not have a lot of. If beneficiaries spend money on Sky TV instead of feeding their children, then there is a problem.

    An additional $75.84 per week.

    Try living on that then john-ston and get back to me huh!

    Most New Zealand families would be more than happy to get an additional $75.84 a week.

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  17. john-ston’s argument is one opposed to all subsidy of those identified as of lower socio-economic status by “others”.

    He opposes all support to families on the grounds it allows the poor to afford children via cross subsidy from richer folk. He therefore opposes state housing on the same grounds etc.

    He says all people must earn their stuff by themselves – live within whatever income they can earn.

    The rest is detail – the marginalisation technique of choice is to use the argument in reference to those on benefits to get wider buy-in to the line and then use it to dismantle WFF (which is why the government is doing welfare review before looking at WFF review in the second term).

    I doubt he supports any attempt to help the 20% of children in poverty – he will claim that doing nothing is the best thing to do. Yet we know there was more child poverty pre WFF, so we know increasing support to families with children does reduce child poverty – so if we include beneficiaries with children this time child poverty rates will fall. Not doing so is the choice to accept child poverty amongst us by having higher priorities elsewhere. And that is one form of class warfare.

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  18. john-ston, Polynesian and Maori generally have larger families (and this is unrelated to whether they are working or not). As Polynesians and Maori have higher unemployment rates (and DPB, SB and IB rates), there will be larger sized families on benefits than the average elsewhere.

    You would need to compare the size of Pakeha, Maori and Polynesian families on and off welfare support to provide any statistic with relevant meaning. Good luck with that as higher work incomes ensure the capacity for more children.

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  19. John-ston

    35.0 percent of people are aged under 15 years in Otara East, compared with 22.1 percent for all of Auckland Region.

    Yep! So there are more poor young people than poor old people. Considering the young have had to take the brunt of policy changes that negatively affect them, this is no surprise. It is no indication that poor people have more children than rich people.

    If there are no jobs to work for that food, then I don’t have a problem with the beneficiary being provided with a basic income because that situation is outside the control of the beneficiary!

    A benefit is a basic income.

    The crime that I am thinking of is between people.

    John-ston! You asked for an example of the effects of the 30’s depressions. War was one of the negative effects of impoverishment in that time. Murder is still murder, whether it is in your own house, your neighbours house or in another country under the “mandate” of war. How much crime did the Nazi’s undertake again in Germany?

    There are many factors that increase crime. Poverty is one of them.

    The last time I checked though, the bad habits of rich people were not having severe negative effects on their children.

    What the! Are you for real? Are children of rich people somehow immune from their parent’s bad habits like alcoholism for instance? Interesting concept there john-ston.

    If beneficiaries spend money on Sky TV instead of feeding their children, then there is a problem.

    How many children go hungry because their parents have spent the dole on sky TV john-stone? If the Government spends more money on bailing out its rich mates instead of rectifying childhood poverty in New Zealand, then we have a problem. One that the current Government has no will to resolve. Not resolving the issue of childhood poverty is not excused because a few beneficiaries are bad parents.

    Most New Zealand families would be more than happy to get an additional $75.84 a week.

    But it is not additional… It is the total amount a beneficiary child has to survive on each week. That’s food, clothes, medical assistance etc. Would you like to do the math? In this day and age, culling the poor through financial restrictions is simply barbaric.

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  20. Actually, the MSD Statistical Report did at one stage provide details of sizes of beneficiary households, but unsure if this is in their latest one, I gave up reading them because they started to not report some details which could be used to rebuke the myths bene bashers held…..Strange that.
    In the past the average sized bene household was litle different than non-bene households at time the snapshot was taken, particularly after accounting for ethnicity etc.
    Of course in part of the myth-making people presume once a bene househo;d always one, when in fact for many they churn going into and out of low-paid wages or being unemployed. This is more so in areas defined as low socio-economic as measured by the Wgtn branch of Otago medical School Deprivation Index survey.
    The myth making also does not “prove” benes have the additional child while on a benefit although that of course happens – but at rates higher than average, whi knows.
    And as for the crime rate in the 1930s – heaps of anecdotal evidence that sheep stolen, slaughtered to feed hungry poor folk in cities/towns but farmers being more egalitarian then took it on the chin so to speak…

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  21. Personally, I would prefer to pay taxes than have to step over beggars and see starving children in rags and without shoes in the streets, or have higher crime rates and the associated costs involved just because benefits do not meet basic requirements. Benefits have been cut to presumably give beneficiaries “an incentive to find work”. Yep! Starving is a pretty good incentive all right… Now where are those jobs?

    The interesting thing is that if there was initial investment to rectify childhood poverty, this would mean a great saving in the long run concerning ill health of the impoverished and other social-economic negatives that impoverishment causes. The argument that we need to save money is therefore defunct. We need to save money by investing in our childrens futures, not by paying for the consequences of neglecting the impoverished by building more hospitals and jails.

    I would go further than saying the right has a lack of decency in allowing childhood poverty to continue unabated. I would say they have a perverse and narcissistic contempt for the poor and like to see them suffer. It makes them feel superior, when through their inaction; they’re obviously not “superior” at all.

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  22. interestingly, initla investment ideas such as ensuring quality, flexible, affordable child care has been disinvested by National and its coalition partners. Reduced quality is that funding now only requires 80% of paid staff to be fully qualified thus dumbing down the quality….
    Need to break-even means many ECE providers require parents to contract term-by-term. For those in fragile employment relationships (90-trial, single parents with low education qualifications hence reduced ability to safe for the hypothrical rainy day contracting by the term is difficult unless they lie as if they loose job the ability to pay is drastically reduced.
    Such investment would irronically satisfy the likes of who believe a vast majority of bene parents waste their benefit on booze becayse it will go a supplier – cute, but national in 2008 9and in 1991 as well disinvested. Sad but true.

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