Last night, Parliament debated NZ First MP Tracey Martin’s Bill to ensure children in the long term care of family members were able to access a clothing allowance currently only available to children in foster care.
Many of these children are being cared for by grandparents after their parents have died, or have been put in the care of their grandparents when they were at risk or had been harmed in the care of their parents.
Often the grandparents and other family members caring for such children are on NZ Superannuation or have given up full-time work to be able to properly provide the support these children need. Many of these families are really struggling financially.
Families caring for foster children can get up to $1600 per year for clothing for those children, but those receiving an orphan’s benefit or unsupported child benefit do not get that allowance. In practice this means many of these children go without or have hand-me-downs while fostered children get new clothes.
These grandparents and other family members are stepping in to do the best for their family. It hurts them not to be able to provide as well as the State. If they didn’t step in and the children were in State care there is no question the children would be worse off emotionally and developmentally. It’s wrong that stepping in means the children are worse off materially.
The Government accepted the injustice of this – it’s hard to argue against. But, bizarrely, they would only agree to parity from 2018.
Affected children and their carers have been writing to MPs asking us not to make them wait until 2018. I thought that was fair enough, so I introduced an amendment last night to bring parity forward to commence this year.
I had obtained the support of the Greens, NZ First and Labour for my amendment, while the Maori Party and United Future were considering it.
Suddenly, National stepped in and threatened not to support Tracey’s Bill at all unless NZ First voted against my amendment.
To me, that’s just plain mean and petty.