The legislation required to increase benefits by $25 next April to families with children is currently passing through parliament. The bill is called the Support for Children in Hardship Bill.
Naturally the opposition will have to support the government bill. But they aren't happy.
That's because National is taking the opportunity to make another change.
At the moment sole parents are required to work (or look for work) averaging at least 15 hours per week when their youngest starts school.
The bill changes that requirement to an average of 20 hours per week when the youngest child turns 3.
That was what the Welfare Working Group recommended in 2011.
In fact Anne Tolley makes mention of it during the debate:
"The Opposition often talks about Norway, and how they do things in Norway. It was interesting to see that France, Germany, Norway, and Switzerland have a work expectation for people receiving a benefit when their youngest child is 3 years of age. A range of other countries have work expectations at an earlier age, including Sweden, Japan, and Denmark, which is another country that is often quoted to us as one that we should take notice of. In Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Japan, and Sweden all sole parents are subject to a work test, regardless of the child’s age. So, actually, what we are doing here in New Zealand is consistent with international practice.
Finally, I refer to the Welfare Working Group from 2011, which recommended that sole parent beneficiaries should be required to seek part-time paid work of at least 20 hours per week once their youngest child is 3 years of age. Of course, we did not implement that—we did not go as far as that. But having seen, then, the success and the number of sole parents with children younger than 5 going into part-time work, we are very confident that the obligations we are placing in this bill will have a great long-term effect for those families—for both the mothers and for their children, long term. So I think the evidence has been well presented. It is very clear. It is well supported.
I refer the Opposition to the comments of Dr Lance O’Sullivan, who was last year’s New Zealander of the Year, who supported the proposals from the Government at the time they were announced. He stated—and, again, we have good evidence that shows it—that children from vulnerable families at risk, which we know many of those children in sole parent, benefit-dependent homes are, will benefit the most from having access to early childhood education. So the 20 hours’ early childhood education will provide those children with learning opportunities and with socialisation, and we think that that has good long-term benefits for those children."
Of course it still won't make any difference to those sole parents who choose to live where work opportunities are scarce.
23 minutes ago