Monday, December 01, 2014

Carmel Sepuloni: be careful what you ask for

The NZ Herald interviewed Carmel Sepuloni, Labour's new Social Development spokesperson.

" [Sepuloni] disagrees with National's policy of requiring solo mothers to look for work. She returned to work when Isaiah was just five weeks old, but said not all single parents had the same benefits of a family support base and flexible working arrangements.. "I was committed to the organisation, and I can't imagine personally for me, not working. It's not just financial. I have things I want to achieve. I love being a Mum but I personally wouldn't want to do it full time." She believed there should be support for sole parents to return to work, but not a strict compulsion. "It is a case by case basis. I don't think it should be so stringent because it's not necessarily to the benefit of their children."
The trouble is WINZ cannot treat people on a  "case by case" basis. Before the DPB (1973) there was the DPB-Emergency benefit (1968) which did allow case managers to use their discretion and treat people on a "case by case" basis. The DPB introduced in 1973 was a stark departure because the benefit became a statutory entitlement. Any single parent was eligible regardless of their circumstances or reasons for being a single parent. That saw the numbers requiring assistance rocket up.

So does Sepuloni want a return to a discretionary benefit?

If not (and I strongly suspect she doesn't) when should the mother be expected to return to work?

Under National mothers are expected to be available for 10 or more hours of paid employment when the youngest child is 5. Hardly draconian.

If she has another child while on the benefit, then those work requirements will kick in when the prior child turns 5. Would Sepuloni get rid of that rule?

Because having  babies while already on welfare is never to the benefit of children.

Yes, I look forward to hearing Labour outlining its alternative policy for single parents. It's easy enough to make off-the-cuff statements, but justifying and costing policy is much harder.

She's already at odds with Labour's approach when last in government which was work is the best way out of poverty for parents and their children.

If she thinks that voters want more generous state support for single parents I reckon she is reading them wrong. And it's not because the public lacks compassion. It's because the public does care and can see that long-term welfare dependence is almost never "to the benefit of their children".


Jim Rose said...

The American sociologist James Julius Wilson in The truly disadvantaged (1987) and When Work Disappears (1996) wrote about how more children are growing-up without a working father living in the home and glean the awareness that work is a central expectation of adult life.

Carmel Sepuloni appears to believe that work is not a central expectation of adult life. Hard work used to be a core value of the Labour Party.

When Sepuloni was on the backbenchers prior to the election. She was asked whether she would support a $40 an hour minimum wage if that would mean equality. She did not hesitate to say yes.

She does not seem to notice that wages must have something to do with productivity.

Anonymous said...

"If she thinks that voters want more generous state support for single parents..."

Let's just rephrase that in English: nett taxpayers do not want to support unwed mothers

some of us may accept the necessity of it but I bet no nett taxpayers want it

And remember the nett taxpayers pay for everything for everyone else.