Metiria Turei
Childcare changes typical of Govt’s anti-child approach

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has realised that if you’re going to work-test sole parents and force them into low-paid jobs when their children are six (or younger), someone’s going to have to look after the kids.

So she’s announced an extra $2.8 million for out of school care programmes, while lowering the standards for those programmes so they can fit more kids in without having to worry about “ticking boxes.”

Quality out of school care is critically important for many parents balancing full or part-time work with child rearing, and more funding for the sector is certainly welcome. However, I’m pretty concerned at the moves to reduce standards at the same time.

As a parent, it can be incredibly hard to leave your kids with carers – even the most trustworthy and able carers – without feeling stressed, anxious, or guilty. You want to be certain that your kids are safe and well looked after, and it helps if they’re with carers who will get to know them as individuals.

It’s about more than just knowing your child is physically safe – it’s also about knowing that they are being nurtured and extended and enriched socially and culturally, and cared for with attention and affection. Some people are lucky enough to have family members to help with this care. Others have partners who can care for their kids full time. Sole parents who don’t have this level of family support deserve the same peace of mind, and their kids deserve the same level of care.

All parents should be able to choose to care for their kids rather than be guilt tripped or worse, coerced by WINZ, into working late and long hours, losing precious parenting time with their children.

Lowering standards to allow out of school care programmes to cram more kids in so their parents can work longer hours is an anti-child policy. It’s symptomatic of this Government’s whole approach to issues of work, welfare, and children: an inflexible, ideological fixation on paid work at all costs – costs borne by the children in the end.

Moving off a benefit and into paid work that is flexible, appropriate, pays a living wage and can accommodate your children’s needs and fulfill your own aspirations is a great thing. There is much we can do to encourage this, like providing better study support for sole parents and beneficiaries to upskill and retrain for new jobs, and raising the minimum wage to help working parents provide the basics for their kids.

But this Government has it the wrong way around: force people into low-paid, unskilled jobs (if they’re lucky enough to find one) and lower child care standards to accommodate their kids while they work the long hours required to make ends meet.

It’s a poor policy that will result in poor outcomes for parents and kids.

6 thoughts on “Childcare changes typical of Govt’s anti-child approach

  1. National are eroding the potential of our children and limiting what they could achieve in the future. As Christchurch has discovered at great cost you need a strong foundation to build anything substantial on and yet the foundation provided for the next generation is being done on the cheap. Our children are being provided with substandard support built with shoddy materials, few supporting structures, low paid workers and environments that limit development rather than extend.

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  2. If the work-tested sole parent you refer to was themselves employed in before and after schoolcare – say 4 hours a day for 5 days a week – that would fulfil the part-time work-test. In the process they would be providing care for their own and other children. What’s wrong with that?

    Sweden is constantly held up as a country that ‘invests’ in their children. But Sweden expects all parents to work after a limited period of state-funded leave (single or partnered).

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  3. Metiria, are you able to tell us what Paula actually means by:

    Reducing the number of standards from 11 to six.

    ??

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  4. “All parents should be able to choose to care for their kids rather than be guilt tripped or worse, coerced by WINZ, into working late and long hours, losing precious parenting time with their children. ”

    This is a situation that most people find themselves in … they are actually people who work for a living. Life is about sacrifices I am afraid. Many of us taxpaying workers would love the oppotunity to spend more time with our children, but to try and get ahead in life that is a sacrifice many have to make.

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  5. nOthing wrong with parents working in the after-school job, but there won’t be room for everyone doing it. Also, you do need qualifications – or you should do.
    As Meyt notes, they are increasing numbers and lowering standards – so you might have fewer carers of lesser qualification. Don’t imagine the pay is much either.
    Once again, it is doing things on the cheap and it won’t benefit working parents, whether single or not.

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  6. “but to try and get ahead in life that is a sacrifice many have to make.”

    No one in parliament has to make this sacrifice though. They get to enact these policies but their salaries are more than enough to support a large family on a single income, even without double dipping. Sure they might work long hours but they don’t have to leave their kids in unqualified hands at understaffed, under-resourced childcare facilities…

    From the perspective of the child of a single parent, though, the lack of parental presence at a young age is certainly going to have some lasting impacts on personality, esteem, confidence and such. Quality childcare might mitigate some of this, however we have to make some sacrifices in this regard so our government can continue to fund rugby events and yachting teams.

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