April 25, 2014

An enforced separation of parent and child at the hands of government in exchange for financial assistance is both cruel and contrary to the nature of our free society

21 October 2012

Secretariat
Government Administration Committee
Parliament Buildings
WELLINGTON 6011

SUBMISSION
Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill

While I do not desire to appear before the Committee to speak on my submission, I am willing to speak if necessary.

I am opposed to the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill because it requires beneficiaries to have their children in Early Childhood Education, attend school, and requires the sole parent of a 14 year old child to be in full time employment. It is against a parent’s human rights to take away their right to provide the education of choice for their child. There are beneficiaries who are committed to providing a quality nurturing and learning environment for their children at home who do not want their child to be in the environment of an approved early childhood education provider or in a school. The amendment would require those beneficiaries to choose to put their children into care against their will or loose 50% of their financial support and be subject to investigation by fraud investigators and Social Services. An enforced separation of parent and child at the hands of government in exchange for financial assistance is both cruel and contrary to the nature of our free society.

I hope that my own story can influence you to reject this amendment.

Although my husband and I had been educated in local schools we decided to home educate our own children. This became more than a way of ‘doing school’; it became a lifestyle for our family. Sadly , after 14 years my marriage ended in divorce. Humiliated, but determined to continue the level of care for my children that I had always striven to provide , I applied for the Domestic Purposes Benefit. I vividly remember the shame I felt as I sat crying at the appointment. I can also remember the gratefulness I felt as the W.I.N.Z. case worker affirmed my role as mother and encouraged me to continue to care for my children, saying that home educating my children was a full time job. At that time Home Educating provided an exemption from any work requirements. Had the proposed amendment been in force my youngest child would have been subject to early childhood education requirements, for which it is impossible to gain an exemption, (because it is not compulsory to attend early childhood education in New Zealand). While the rest of my children could remain at home due to their homeschool exemptions, my youngest would have had to go into care if the proposed amendment had been in place. This would have be unacceptable to me and I would have sooner forgone financial support. Fortunately this was not the case at the time and I have enjoyed support and success in my sole parenting, as well as home educating and my children are doing very well. If the amendment is passed families like my own who are committed to looking after their own preschool children will not be able to access government financial support.

This amendment fails to acknowledge that many children are better off at home and out of early childhood education. The assumption that the authors of the amendment have made is that children are better off out of the care of their parents. Many studies have shown that the optimum learning environment for a young child is in the home with a loving parent. Strangely, in my own situation I am able to be an approved childcare provider, while the amendment would require that my own children were removed to another approved provider. This is foolishness. My own children have excelled in our home learning environment. One on one attention from parent to child in a stimulating environment is preferable to a childcare facility. Brilliant minds can be cultivated this way. One of my own home educated children received first place for Senior Secondary Schools Science Fair in the entire Bay of Plenty region. She was the youngest entrant. She has never attended school, preschool or childcare of any sort. Please consider this evidence that the home environment can be superior to the institutional one if the parent encourages learning. Many home educated children are doing very well academical and socially. These children are an asset to our country and should not be denied the education of their parents choice. How much more so for the very young child who has a right to be with his mother? The assumption that single mothers are all bad parents and that their children are better off in childcare is an insult to good mothers. The amendment fails the many children who are better off at home with parents than in an early childhood center.

While selfishness, laziness and the neglect of children disgusts us, laws must be reasonable so that they do not unintentionally cause harm. As a country we must work to protect the vulnerable. But not only the vulnerable neglected or abused child who is safer away from home, but also the vulnerable child who is better off with his mother, siblings and friends in the community. Welfare laws should not be written only for those who have neglected their children, but also for those who are making a good home, for whom the welfare is designed to help. For the mother who truly believes her children are better off out of Early Childhood Education what choice will she have but to choose her principles over the financial help? What government intervention and ‘sticks’ will then be employed to coerce her into compliance and give up the care of her children? Is it acceptable for the government to pass into law an amendment which takes a child from their mother for no other reason than a misconception that all children are better off in care than with their mother? Please do not pass an amendment that gives a Work and Income case worker the power to force a loving, good, responsible mother who wants to care for her preschool child to choose between having her child or having financial assistance. Please also remember that the amendment threatens that parent who decides to forgo the financial support of WINZ with becoming a target of CYPS and fraud investigation, further adding stress to a family that should be receiving support.

This amendment includes a focus on returning single mothers to the work force. Although it is important that our society is made up of people who work, the emphasis to be in paid work should be upon those who are not caring for children. When the law changed to require me to find employment I sought work early in the morning so that I could arrive home in time to begin the task of caring for my children. This has been exhausting. I would not expect this of anyone I know, I believe it is asking too much. I can accept a loss of financial support if our country has run out of money, if the tax payer can no longer support my family. But while our country continues to pay for every mother to have 20 hours a week of free childcare, I am convinced that the current push to move women from the domestic purposes benefit into employment is based more on the beliefs of a sector of our society than a financial necessity. I am concerned that women who are focused on career have swayed government in their own favor, against the women who are focused on raising their children. While the career woman wants 20 hours free childcare, the woman who wants to be home with her child does not need this service but may need financial support in the case of death, abandonment or relationship breakdown, if she does not feel she can manage caring for her children as well as providing for them. Many single mothers are not superwomen who can do it all. I suggest the superwoman is over represented in parliament, due to the nature of the job, while the average woman is not represented at all. The domestic purposes benefit was designed to provide financial support to women who are raising their children alone, who wanted to continue to do so, who wished to give their time and attention to those children . We ask for government financial support to allow us to focus on being good parents to our children. Two parents struggle with the hectic lifestyle of todays high achieving child. The child with only one involved parent needs the help and time of that parent to be able to take part in the activities that promote success. Additionally it is very discouraging for me to remember that there are people without the responsibility of children who are on the unemployment benefit. Surely it is better to pressure the people who are not singularly responsible for raising children into the workforce.

Please consider; are the women who are successfully raising children alone worth supporting with financial assistance to continue to do so? If you believe they are please reject this amendment. Although we are told that this amendment is designed to ‘be a stick’ only to those that are selected to have their children spend their days ‘in a better place’, please remember it is unjust to pass a law that should not be applied to all to whom it can apply. This amendment is alarming to me because it assumes that ALL children are better off out of the care of their mother and in an early childhood institution, that ALL families are better off with parents in the work force and that ALL women are better off in a career than caring for children. This is a FALSE idea.

Please continue to support single mothers who are devoted to the care of their children.

Yours sincerely