Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Budget focus on teen parents

On Monday the government made a formal response to the Children's Commissioner Expert Advisory Group Solutions to Child Poverty which were very extensive and costly. Essentially the government has simply reiterated everything they have already done, but I thought it worthwhile highlighting the section about teen parents who are, to my mind, where much of the available government and non-government resources need to go. Generally teen parents get stuck in the welfare rut for longer than most and contribute to the intergenerational cycle more than most. They are teen parents for a short time but single, benefit-dependent parents for many years thereafter. Their children will almost certainly figure amongst the poorest, most deprived in the country:

Investing in teen parents

Budget  2012  set  aside  $287.5  million  over  four  years  for  the  first  phase  of  the
Government’s  welfare  reforms  to  help  more  New  Zealanders  into  work.   Much  of  this  is earmarked for supporting youth, including $80 million over four years for  early childhood education, childcare and the Guaranteed Childcare Assistance Payment for teen parents. Another $77.6 million was set aside to support the roughly 14,000 disengaged 16 and 17 year olds, to move them into education or training.

A new Youth Service and reciprocal obligations 

The Government has set up a new Youth Service to work with vulnerable young people. 
Community-based providers are funded to deliver wraparound support to teen parents and unemployed or disengaged young people, in order to improve their educational outcomes.  

One  of  the  groups  targeted  by  the  Youth  Service  is  16-18  year  old  parents  who  are receiving  financial  assistance  from  the  Government.    In  return  for  receiving  financial assistance, these Young Parent Payment recipients are supported to complete a range of obligations focused on improving their parenting skills, including: 

    completing a parenting education programme
    enrolling every dependent child with a Primary Health Organisation
    keeping every child under the age of 5 years up to date with WellChild checks, and
    ensuring  their  children’s  attendance  at  an  approved  early  childhood  education
programme or other suitable childcare while they are in education, training, work-based
learning or part time work.

Learning what works for young Māori parents

55% of Young Parent Payment recipients have identified themselves as Māori.  Alongside the  Youth  Service,  the  Government  has  invested  in  a  Supporting  Intergenerational
Success initiative, which provides tailored support for young single Māori mothers to move into meaningful training and employment opportunities.  This initiative is being run by Te Puni Kōkiri for one year.  Its focus is on harvesting information to find out what works and identifying the opportunities and challenges for this group.  

Supporting  Intergenerational  Success  was  designed  to  complement  the  Government's
welfare reforms and other initiatives that focus on young mothers with more complex and
entrenched needs.  Providers are working with single Māori mothers aged 16-20 years old
who are receiving the Emergency Maintenance Allowance or Domestic Purposes Benefit in
South Auckland, Rotorua, Waikato, and Gisborne.

More Teen Parent Units

The  Government  is  funding  the  establishment  of  a  further  5  teen  parent  units  in  2013, which  will  provide  more  educational  options  for  teen  parents  in  these  areas.    Not  every school can have a teen parent unit, however, so the Government is exploring alternative ways to incentivise teen parents to return to or remain in education.
Dedicated Intensive Case Workers

In  2010,  the  Government  invested  $7.9  million  in  Teen  Parent  Intensive  Case  Workers. These  Case  Workers  are  working  in  19  high  needs  communities  to  support  the  most vulnerable teen parents and their children.  

Their  aim  is  to  help  teen  parents  stay  in  education,  and  work  with  those  on  benefits  to prepare for future employment.  They link teen parents and children to the services and support  they  need,  such  as  antenatal  care,  services  that  help  prevent  repeat  teen pregnancies, housing, budgeting, and home visiting and parenting services (parents aged under 18 are prioritised for the limited available  places in Family Start).  They also help ensure children of teen parents are participating in Well Child services and early childhood education.  
Volunteer Neighbourhood Support

Volunteer  Neighbourhood  Support  initiatives  assist  the  Teen  Parent  Intensive  Case
Workers in nine priority communities.  They provide support for teen parents who are not facing  major  challenges,  but  who  may  be  isolated  and  able  to  benefit  from  greater
connections  with  their  neighbourhoods.    Improved  access  to  parenting  and  mentoring programmes has been a focus of most of these initiatives. 
Parenting Support for Teen Fathers

This programme focuses on helping teen fathers to be responsible and nurturing parents.
In  2010,  the  Government  provided  $730,000  for  it.    A  resource  created  for  service
providers  brings  together  what  is  known  from  research  and  good  practice,  and  enables examples  of  effective  parenting  support  to  be  shared.    This  resource  is  being  used  by communities across New Zealand to develop support services for teen fathers.  

The  Government  has  also  funded  support  services  for  teen  fathers  in  nine  high  needs communities.  These services provide teen fathers with information and skills to prepare for the  birth  of  their  child,  parent  their  children  effectively,  and  identify  and  respond  to  their children's health, education and social needs. 

Supported Housing for Teen Parents and their Children

In 2010, the Government invested $6.2 million in Supported Housing for Vulnerable Teen
Parents  and  their  Children.    This  initiative  provides  housing  with  adult  supervision  and support by trained staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It addresses the needs of the most vulnerable teen parents and their children.  

The houses are for teen parents (ranging in age from 13-19 years) who are unable to be
supported  by  their  parents/caregivers  and  who  lack  the  resources  to  find  a  stable  and suitable place to live.  Teen parents in these homes receive parenting support and social work support, learn budgeting and other life skills, and get help to plan for their futures.


Brendan said...


I suspect that so long as the Government continues to provide economic incentives for teen parents, and fatherlessness, we will continue to have this blight upon our nation, and poverty amongst their offspring.

No amount of money or State intervention is going to fix this, it's precicely this money and intervention that's the problem.

Anonymous said...

The latest Quadrant magazine had an article about moderate Islam and in that the author made commentts about people not doing sensible stuff unless economics forced it. It was an interesting concept and seems applicable here. Does this concept mean you will always have X number of problems as a base line but fixing them simply raises the base line?

Let 10 starve to avoid feeding 1000?


Lindsay Mitchell said...

Brendan, The US limits cash incentives more than any other modern welfare state but teens continue to have babies, albeit the teen birthrate is dropping. While the desired behavioural response develops I'm not averse to non-cash assistance going to those girls who still have children without the emotional or financial wherewithal to raise them. I am hoping that all the obligations teens now have to meet will discourage them from going onto a benefit. This is as good as it gets right now.

Anon, only the govt has the capacity to (be expected to)'feed everyone'. Perhaps they should have a policy that agrees to "let 10 starve to avoid feeding 1000", because as experience has already shown, the private sector, business or charity, will step up to prevent the starvation of a small number.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Brendan.

It is indeed the money and intervention that is the problem.

Hearing that the teen birthrate is dropping in the US is powerful evidence that the "get tough" approach to welfare *works*.
The young are not completely stupid, so if there are big. loud warnings that "if you have a baby in your teens, YOU pay for it" - that message will eventually get through, as it seems to be doing in the US.

I'm still not convinced (yet) that the "obligations" that teen mothers here will have to meet will discourage them from benefits. "The truth will be in the benefit-number pudding" in the next year or so.