Date _15th October 2012
Government Administration Committee
Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill
Name of Individual / Family / Organisation: Julie Thompson
I oppose the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill
Thank you for allowing me to make this submission. I am concerned that the new generic job seeker benefit will mean that some New Zealanders who are at home not working and minding children will be forced to look for work. For example, the mother on a benefit who wants to carry on caring for her home and family after the youngest turns 14 will now have to choose between receiving the benefit and being with her family. Some of these beneficiaries are caring for special needs children and there are others who are home schooling. Both activities save the tax payer huge amounts of money and those beneficiaries (usually parents) remain the most qualified and appropriate people to be doing such a task.
We need some room for such parents to opt out to perform their special tasks. It appears that beneficiaries will be expected to work part-time once their youngest child turns 5 and go on to full-time work once the youngest child turns 14. I note that their right to provide their own children with a personalized, individualized education that is affordable and effective will be removed. They will be penalized because of their family type and an opportunity lost. Home schooling is an international phenomenon, evidence based and the literature confirms its educational outcomes are highly regarded. Diversity in education is important to New Zealand and this bill will prevent highly creative and independent families from taking steps to have valuable input into their children’s lives.
These responsible urban and rural beneficiaries (mostly mothers) are making a social investment and their productivity has not yet been measured. Reducing income to parents who are providing socially responsible and lawful services to children who are loved and cared for seems to be a lurch from freedom to coercion. They will have to choose the workplace over being at home and the positions available are mostly low paid, casualised and temporary in the case of the female workforce. This represents a slippery slope and I wonder what will come next? The new discriminatory Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill does not differentiate between neglectful and responsible parents. It targets all parents receiving state assistance no matter what their state of mind, their parenting philosophies, or their future plans may be. Once the family has actually received a benefit and been beholden to the state will they be tracked thereafter?
Single parents will lose the right to pass on their own unique cultural and spiritual heritages and will be forced to accept a state sanctioned education. I assert that home education may well be a protective buffer for children in single parent families. I feel most sorry for those caring for children with autism, Down syndrome and other disabilities. They will have to relinquish their care to a state sanctioned service provider who will no doubt provide an inferior service. Single mothers on a benefit will find it more difficult to home educate their children, especially once the children turn 14. At a critical stage their teens will lose opportunities for a customized education. Single parents who use the Correspondence school to educate teens will not be available to supervise delivery and risks to young people will emerge. These single parents currently receive a meager supervisory allowance from the Ministry of Education to acknowledge their input and expenses. I wonder if they will become ineligible for that. I ask you to consider those beneficiary parents who were intending to supply interesting and educational early learning environments at home for preschool children. Under the proposed bill they will be required to find an approved ECE provider and will have to pay the cost of petrol for attendance, whether they want to or not.
It is also concerning that the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill forces parents to enroll their children at birth with a GP and coerces them to attend all the government-required Well Child checks. It removes the freedom for beneficiary parents to make autonomous and principled choices about their child’s health care. I fear they will be subjected to demands from health professionals who bully and coerce and have little regard for the right to refuse medical treatments. I am aware that some kids do not have scissors, books, pens and paper in their homes and do not get necessary vision/hearing checks or dental care. We need to ensure children living in deprivation actually do receive important services and the first task is to identify impoverished vulnerable kids rather than eroding freedoms en mass. Rather than punitive measures such as cutting benefits we should be spending money and targeting those families for special help and ensuring that those children receive adequate parenting and care. Surely it is a matter of social justice. The bill does not provide for beneficiaries who want to home educate and is not targeted to at risk children who also deserve all the benefits and rights of living in NZ? Beneficiaries who want to home school are highly motivated people and actively engage and participate in their communities. This bill is a cynical ploy to save money, reduce welfare costs and is not targeted to the children that need extra help. It represents a blanket ban on freedom. I fail to see how cutting money will actually help children. Perhaps risk assessment tools could be developed to actually find these specific children and money spent on working intensively with them.
A low income already correlates to fewer choices, why make the path narrower for people who are struggling? I have been home schooling for 15 years, and although I am married, I have managed to give my children an amazing childhood. Over the years we have never had much money by choice because we have had to have one adult at home to fulfill our home schooling commitment. Despite being a one income family the possibility of being able to home school has broadened our horizons, made our life more interesting and diverse and given our children some amazing and memorable learning adventures. Our conviction to home school has actually saved the country hundreds of thousands of dollars and greater access to home schooling as an educational option may well be the way forward rather than cutting class sizes, closing schools in Christchurch or introducing charter schools. Our taxes pay for state schools and then we pay again for our own children. The government has not had to fund caretakers, paper, heating, resources, and teachers for our children. We are a cost effective hub and a learning rich environment. This legislation will ensure beneficiary children receive a substandard cookie cutter industrialized education that could have otherwise been averted by a caring parent who wanted something different. It also means that only rich people will be able to home school and therefore will reduce the diversity, originality and richness of the home school community. This is a huge risk to an as yet untapped resource.
This new bill sends a message that single parents (majority are women) are less than capable, dangerous and need more surveillance than other sectors of the population. It is institutional misogyny. A centre right government surely can understand that freedom of conscience is a basic right? Enforcing these new social obligations with a monetary penalty means there will not be choices but rather penalties for being on a benefit. Anyone who does not conform will be subjected to so-called “intensified case management support”. The bill encroaches upon basic freedoms and a family’s right to self expression. It discriminates against certain family types and takes choice away. I need some assurance that if my husband does lose his job and we end up on a benefit that we will not be subjected harsh measures and coercive tactics Once it is passed and beneficiaries are under scrutiny the next section of the population will have to succumb and that will be those who receive family support and family tax credits It is a means to control families and is unnecessarily intrusive and must be opposed.
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