by Jan Logie
The Government has announced it plans to sanction parents (this means cutting their benefit by 50%) who do not meet their ascribed parenting standards of enrolling them in 15 hours per week of ECE from 3 years of age, enrolling in a PHO, completing all the well child checks, and ensuring children are enrolled in and attending school regularly.
The government predicts over 2000 parents will have trouble meeting these “social obligations” and they have budgeted to sanction 1300 parents.
That’s a significant number of children who will be in extreme hardship or given into the care of other people if their mother has the networks.
That’s not in the best interests of the Child.
The Government says all these obligations are in the best interests of the child so they’re going to use whatever levers they can to make the parents do the right thing.
The assumption here is the parents are either ignorant of what is good for their children or just wilfully bad parents who need to be made to do the right thing.
I would like to remind the Government that:
- 15 hours of ECE for a 3 year old is not recommended by kindergartens. They’ll only take a child up to 12 hours a week at that age.
- some parents may wish to follow the Steiner educational model that doesn’t start children in school until age 7.
- some parents want to have a choice about the educational environment they put their children into. Not all ECE is suitable for all children. One of my colleagues went through three services until she found one to suit her daughter.
- some families chose to home school their children to provide them with an alternative positive schooling environment.
It is the role of the State to enable these choices not supplant them.
According to my analysis this policy breaches 7 articles in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: 3,5,12,14,18,23 and 26. Most of these are about the parents role in deciding what’s best for their child.
Beneficiaries are not second class citizens and they are not any more likely to make poor choices than people in paid work.
Beneficiary parent’s choices are often brutally constrained by their limited income-poverty. The Government refuses to even take this issue seriously. How can we believe they have the best interests of children at heart when they won’t take this seriously and they’re already budgeting on the savings to be made at these children’s expense.
It’s not all hopeless though – you can write to John key and tell him to support Metiria’s Bill to create a child payment for the children of parents who aren’t in paid work.http://www.greens.org.nz/endchildpoverty/tell-john-key.