Opinion Piece in Truth

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Bennett’s ‘social obligations’ are unfair

By Suzannah Rowntree

Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett must be behind on her kindergarten quota.

The ministry’s ‘Supporting Vulnerable Children’ crusade pledges a 98% early childhood education attendance rate throughout the country by 2016, to say nothing of a 95% immunisation rate.

You’d think this quota would depend on the willingness of parents to comply.

But instead of trusting people to make informed decisions about surrendering their preschoolers to strangers or having them injected with chemical cocktails, Bennett’s new slew of welfare reforms makes preschool attendance and the statesponsored Well Child checks compulsory for beneficiaries.

Under the “social obligations” of the new Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill, parents receiving a benefit will be compelled to send their children to an approved preschool from the age of three, ensure regular school attendance from the age of six, register children at birth with an approved healthcare providerand attend all Well Child checks.

Who knew losing your job disqualified you from making decisions about your children’s health and education?

Bennett insists that the reforms are not invasive or coercive. “It doesn’t feel like I’m going into their homes and telling them exactly what to do, it just feels like I’m trying to put the right kind of care around themand their kids.”

Well, that’s nice for you, Paula, but feelings don’t always reflect reality. Let’s look at the sanctions that await recalcitrant free-thinkers.

Parents who refuse to cooperate with the compulsory programme will undergo three stages of “support contact” with WINZ to “encourage” them to submit to their “social obligations”. Parents who continue to show evidence of independent thought after this will have their benefit slashed by 50%. And in case anyone should be foolhardy enough to continue defying their benevolent overlords, “there are operational processes in place for clients to be referred to CYFS or fraud investigation if they continue on a 50% sanction,” according to the MSD’s Welfare Reform Paper E.

The Bill reflects these sanctions, dressing the CYFS threat up as “intensified case management support”. There’s literally no choice for parents who just want to opt out.

The structure targets responsible parents making principled educational or medical decisions for their children. Not irresponsible parents with neglected children, unless you want to redefine irresponsible as committed to providing better educational alternatives than those available at the local “cookie cutter kinder”.

But this legislation doesn’t just affect beneficiaries who want their three to five-year-old children to learn in a rich and stimulating home environment. It should also be a concern to everyone who sees that 98% early childhood education and 95% immunisation quota.

Because the Social Security Reform Bill proves one thing.  If coercion is needed to achieve this goal, coercion is what we’ll have. If the MSD believes it knows best,  and is willing to impose its vision on beneficiaries, why should it stop at them? Today the beneficiaries, tomorrow the rest of us.

Submissions to the committee are due by November 1, 2012. For more information and help making a submission, visit hef.org.nz

Suzannah Rowntree is paralegal
for the Home Education Foundation.


Related Links:


From the Smiths:


Updated 5 October 2012:  One year on (Craig Smith’s Health) page 7 click here


Needing help for your home schooling journey:



Here are a couple of links to get you started home schooling:




This link is motivational:


Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill

Make a submission: Reject compulsory Early Education for 3 year olds

5 thoughts on “Opinion Piece in Truth

  1. You know the easiest way to avoid this, for all the “free thinkers” out there?

    Get off the benefit.

    Honestly, I don’t mean that in the dickish way it probably comes across, but it’s one way to avoid all this if you really care that much.

    D. Jefferton.

  2. D.Jefferton

    I agree with you. I became a widow last year and I still have three small children at home. I am not on the Widow’s benefit.

    BUT D.Jefferton this is not about the beneficiaries as such. This is about the Government wanting to make COMULSORY for one sector of the community ECE and health care for 3-5 year olds. Once the Government has this working for beneficiaries they will say that it is working so well (and it wont be) that they will want to bring it in for all those on WFF and the family support, then lastly for ALL 3-5 year olds.

    Look at this link: https://hef.org.nz/2012/make-a-submission-reject-compulsory-early-education-for-3-year-olds/

  3. I have an honours degree, and no job. No mimimum wage job will take me because I am over qualified, yet there’s no higher-paying job that will take me because I have no experience. Do you suggest I starve my family rather than be on a benefit? It is really not that simple. I’ve applied for 65 jobs this month alone, and nothing. Getting off the benefit is really not an option, I would have no home to live in, and no food for my child. Being unemployed is no reason for the government to make choices for them. We are not illiterate, ignorant second-class citizens, just because we’re poor and need to rely on the government, we are functioning members of society who deserve, at the very least, to make decisions for ourselves and our families. There are exceptions (those who do need help making appropriate choices), but in no way am I dumping my child in a sub-standard, under-resourced early childhood center, just because I’m poor.

  4. I have been home-educating since 1999. In 2009 my children and I ended up at Women’s Refuge and it was arranged for me to go on the DPB. I continued to home-educate and believe it was the close-knit relationship we had as a result of home-schooling that helped “get us through” (the family break-up) My eldest is now ready to further her education to study vet nursing in Hamilton.

    I feel upset that my choice as a home-educating sole parent is being taken away from me because I’m on a benefit.

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