Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Living standards

Media release
Tuesday, July 11, 2006

According to the latest Ministry of Social Development New Zealand Living Standards 2004 report the majority of sole-parent families are reliant on benefits.

Welfare commentator, Lindsay Mitchell, calculates that between 64 and 69 percent of sole-parent families currently rely on benefits. In 2004 the MSD put the figure at 62 percent.

The report says sole-parent families are three times more likely to be experiencing 'severe hardship' than two-parent families.

"But it is interesting to note what constraints are reported by parents categorised as suffering 'severe hardship', " said Mitchell. "Thirty seven percent of children didn't have or participate in play station or x-box. One assumes then that 63 percent did have access to or own these electronic devices. Yet in the same 'severe hardship' category parents reported not buying books, being unable to afford school outings or postponing children's doctors and dentist visits."

While 32 percent of sole-parent beneficiaries are in the 'severe hardship' category 29 percent reported 'fairly comfortable, comfortable or good'living standards.

The wide variation amongst living standards cannot be explained by variation of income given these families would have similar entitlements.

The problems associated with being in 'severe hardship' would appear to have more to do with how money is spent than the level of income received.

The implications of this have once again been ignored by the Child Poverty Action Group, Green Party and Maori Party who continue to call for increased benefit payments into these homes. That is not the answer.

Only 6 percent of sole-parent families with market income were experiencing 'severe hardship' while 54 percent had 'fairly comfortable' or better living standards. The improvement of living standards for sole-parents lies with paid work and better priorities.

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