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Fewer on sole parenting benefit

Written By: - Date published: 9:25 pm, April 16th, 2008 - 41 comments
Categories: slippery - Tags:

You may have seen the announcement that there are fewer than 20,000 now getting the unemployment benefit, down from 160,000 odd when Labour became government. And now there’s news that there’s been a drop of 13,000 of people receiving the DBP, since the introduction of Working for Families in 2004.

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Parenting and paid work is a challenge at the best of times. Working and being a sole parent even more so. So it’s good to see effort being rewarded, and that a case managment approach is paying off for both recipients and WINZ. Will National keep the WINZ staff who are making a difference in their desire to streamline the public service? And what ARE National going to do about Working for Families? It must surely be time to start indicating where they stand on such an important policy area which is being distributed to three out of four families in NZ.

41 comments on “Fewer on sole parenting benefit ”

  1. So why is having “three out of four” families on a welfare benefit a good thing ? The cost of administering WFF must be vastly more expensive than simply not taking the money off taxpayers in the first place. The application process is arduous and resource intensive for both the taxpayer and the MSD.

    While I can see that MSD having to employee large numbers of application-takers reduces unemployment it doesn’t really seem to be a very productive use of taxpayer resources.

  2. Bill 2

    Dropping DPB numbers good? Hmm. The reality is that the welfare system has moved away from providing reasonable support to the unemployed (whether DPB or others) and now caters to people in work on low incomes.

    Being forced to take demeaning part time jobs (20 hours per week) to access components of the WFF package to support your kids is not something to be crowed about.

    Those most in need are cast adrift these days. Not what the welfare system was initiated for methinks.

  3. deemac 3

    so there we have the tory response: too many people AND too few are receiving benefits – tory logic I guess!

  4. Policy Parrot 4

    “So why is having “three out of four’ families on a welfare benefit a good thing ? The cost of administering WFF must be vastly more expensive than simply not taking the money off taxpayers in the first place. The application process is arduous and resource intensive for both the taxpayer and the MSD.”

    Here is where I disagree. Targeted relief where it is needed most costs far less than a general across the board entitlement policy. It would be far more difficult (and open to distortion) for employers to carry out this function, not to mention increase compliance costs – so the IRD and MSD have created a one-stop-shop.

    An across the board tax cut may alleviate those excessively concerned with entitlement, but has a high opportunity cost forgone in social objectives unable to be pursued to sate anti-tax Soothsayers.

    The application process, which you have incorrectly described as arduous – is in fact not at all – no more arduous than applying for a student loan, passport, IRD number – all of which I’m sure you would agree are necessary.

  5. lprent 5

    I corrected a HTML flaw in the post. One of the paragraphs started beneath the jpeg.

  6. burt 6

    Dancer

    Can you define 3 out of 4 families. Is it like Dr. Cullen claiming that as at the end of 2006 there was 12% of earners paying the top tax bracket based? He based the number on working age people, not people who actually pay tax.

    Is WFF based on the number of people who are of child bearing age or the number of people who actually have children?

    You see when Dr. Cullens 12% shifts to 16% (as at end of 2006) when the number of actual workers is considered, so is WFF really only going to perhaps 10% of people of child bearing age?

    Statistics, people so easily fooled. All this graph shows is that people who have been claiming solo parent benefit have had better fortune under WFF. They ain’t out working and because they are claiming WFF they are not registered as unemployed. Hence record unemployment – easy to see when you give us a graph like that.

  7. r0b 7

    Burt, I can’t make any sense of your comment. Try again in the morning.

  8. burt 8

    rOb

    Good one. Might be you that needs to try again in the morning. I guess the idea of basing a percentage (12%, 16% or 75%) on two numbers where one number has no relation to the other is a tough concept for people who just nod yes yes to everything he says.

    WTF has the number of ‘working age people’ got to do with the number of people paying the top tax bracket? The number of tax payers is very relavent, not the number of people who happen to be the correct age, that’s just bullshit.

    So, given claiming 75% of families is a good thing (the higher the number of people receiving welfare the better – bugger me but Cullen and you lot think so) then what is 75% based on? Is it really the number of eligible people or is it the number of eligible people earning under a combined threshold or some other distortion to stoke the numbers. (like the 12% bollocks claim which was actually 16% as at end of tax year 2006, about two years ago!)

    The graph, sudden dips coincide with progressive launch of WFF policy. So logical assumption is that the employment market didn’t change that fast sa all the graph shows is people being counted under a different class of welfare? What’s changed? People claim WFF rather than a solo parents benefit – whoopee!

  9. dave 9

    The reduction of those on the dpb is absolutely nothing to do with a case management approach. What has happened is that hundreds of people on the dpb were working and their benefit was abated as a result and they were only getting $60-70 a week from WINZ.

    So, why not keep their job and get the $60.00 In work payment instead and cancel their benefit. Many are not working any longer hours – some are only working 20 hours – are not financially better off, they are just having their $60 paid for by teh taxpayer via IRD as an In Work Payment, instead of a tax payer funded WINZ benefit.

  10. burt 10

    rOb

    This sort of stuff is just straightening the deckchairs. Society is experiencing a level of random violence that was completely unknown in NZ just a few short years ago. Inflation and interest rates are making people lives hard and we are seeing the effects in society – NOW.

    It’s an election year and basics have gone up 25%, have wages? Will wages? So what’s gonna happen rOb, are we going to crow that we have an nebulous number of people (75% of families) on the super benefit product from the Labour led govt and claim that it’s a super weapon against National OR are we gonna be realistic and talk about what’s really screwing up this country? Why productivity is stagnating? Why wealth divisions have been made wider by bias tax treatment for residential investment properties?

  11. burt 11

    Why waiting lists are growing and why education is producing such alarming anomalies in outcomes from school to school.

  12. dave 12

    Oh and with regards to the drop in unemployment bneefit nunbers, thats because those who have not gone onto the sickness and invalids benefits are on another benefit. Its called a training benfit .

    and One in five registered unemployed are on a training benefit.

  13. r0b 13

    Burt: The graph, sudden dips coincide with progressive launch of WFF policy. So logical assumption is that the employment market didn’t change that fast sa all the graph shows is people being counted under a different class of welfare? What’s changed? People claim WFF rather than a solo parents benefit – whoopee!

    Well Burt you can go with your “logical” assumptions, or you can actually do a bit of homework and make less of a fool of yourself. You don’t “claim WFF rather than a solo parents benefit – whoopee!” Burt, being on the benefit just entitles you to one of the four components of WFF:

    http://www.ird.govt.nz/wff-tax-credits/entitlement/who-qualifies/tested-benefits/

    What you’re entitled to if you receive income-tested benefits as your main income … Work and Income provides help and pays income-tested benefits that include:

    unemployment benefit
    independent youth benefit
    invalid’s benefit
    sickness benefit
    widow’s benefit, and
    domestic purposes benefit.
    What you’re entitled to

    If you receive any of these benefits as your main income, you are only entitled to family tax credit (previously called family support). This is paid by Work and Income. You are not entitled to any other Working for Families Tax Credits.

    So you are (sorry, as usual) wrong on the basic facts, and also wrong on the effect of WFF:

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0804/S00314.htm

    “Working For Families is also helping to reduce benefit numbers. Since its introduction in 2004, the number of people on the Domestic Purposes Benefit has fallen by nearly 13,000, the largest fall in the numbers receiving the DPB since it was introduced in 1973.

    “According to the Ministry of Social Development, since 2004, there has been an increase in the numbers of DPB recipients stating employment as a reason for exiting benefit and both the Census and the Household Labour Force Survey have shown employment rates of sole mothers are increasing,’ Ruth Dyson said.

    Consider yourself whapped with the cluestick Burt.

  14. r0b 14

    Dave: Oh and with regards to the drop in unemployment bneefit nunbers, thats because those who have not gone onto the sickness and invalids benefits are on another benefit. Its called a training benfit . and One in five registered unemployed are on a training benefit.

    On your blog you give figures:

    For example, at the end of June, 23000 were in receipt of an unemployment benefit and 6368 were in receipt of a training benefit

    Sorry, this is nonsense. Labour inherited 161,128 unemployed in December 1999. It is now down under 20,000. Those 140,000 plus people did not move into 6,368 training positions did they Dave? Please stop telling lies on your blog.

    Nor did they move to other benefits. The number of working age people on benefits is at an all time low. Check out the Ministry of Social Development stats:

    http://www.msd.govt.nz/media-information/benefit-factsheets/national-benefit-factsheets.html

    Headline Benefit Numbers at the end of December 2007

    At the end of December 2007, 270,000 working aged people were receiving main social security benefits. This compares with 367,000 in December 2002 and 287,000 in December 2006. The number of working aged people receiving main benefits decreased by 17,000 (six percent) in the 12 months ended December 2007, and by 98,000 (27 percent) in the five years ended December 2007.

    Summary: Unemployment benefit numbers at lowest since 1979, working age people on benefits at a low and falling, Dave lying on his blog.

  15. Being forced to take demeaning part time jobs (20 hours per week) to access components of the WFF package to support your kids is not something to be crowed about.

    Yes it is. People remaining on welfare because they consider unskilled work “demeaning” would be nothing to crow about. People who consider work beneath them should try begging, prostitution or petty crime instead – they’d soon find what’s really demeaning.

  16. dave 16

    Rob are you trying to tell me that official figures are nonsense? If so youre an idiot. Do your own research properly. THis took about 15 minutes..

    You linked to December figures and made some oirrelevant assumptins. You didnt say that The number on main benefits have gone UP from September to December and the numbers of the Unemployment beenefit have remained constant. You didnt say that, did you??? Nor did you say that dpb numbers have increased by 1,000 every quarter since June, the invalids benefit numbers increased by 10,000 since June, but sickness benefit numbers increased by only 1000 because so many of those on the sickness benefit were transferred to the invalids benefit.

    Of course I meant the recent drop on unemployment numbers, and thats clearly seasonal since December, not since 1980 – just like in my previous comment I was talking about the recent drop in dpb cases.

    In terms of benefit numbers : at the end of December 270,000 were receiving a benefit, up from 263,000 in September, and 261,000 in June

    Gee, its gone up from June until December, and benefit nunbers ALWAYS go down between December to march due to seasonal cycles.
    This is where I said that Unemployment benefit numbers have remained constant, but should fall substantially in the current quarter as unemployed students get jobs.

    And I have been proved right yet again.

    And I havent even mentioned the huge increase in numbers compared to 1999 of those who are students. Those benefit fact sheets you linked to are are to December, the latest announcemnt is based on other figures.

    There is only one benefit that WFF has assisted in reducing – and thats the dpb for reasons Ive already outlined. The invalids benefit is at an all time high – why would more than 1000 teenagers be on an invalids benefit?

  17. r0b 17

    Rob are you trying to tell me that official figures are nonsense? If so youre an idiot. Do your own research properly. THis took about 15 minutes..

    Maybe you should have taken 20 minutes and spent some time understanding what you were reading Dave. Please let’s have the sources for your figures so we can have a look.

    Please check out the MSD link in my post – number of working age adults on all benefits is at a low and falling, unemployment is at its lowest since 1979, and all this while the population is growing.

    If you have some figures for benefits increasing, they probably include superannuation. NZ has a growing and ageing population, so the number on super goes up, that’s why I (like mot people) cite figures for working age people.

    Dave, I think that you are so blinded by ideological confusion that you genuinely can’t see simple facts on this issue. Please read my previous post to you again, and try and understand what you are reading.

  18. mike 18

    Under Labour thousands more working kiwi familes have been moved on to welfare.
    I would much rather be rewarded for production not reproduction thanks.
    I’m glad Cullen has finally had to swallow the Tax dead rat. But will keep his promise this time?

  19. Steve Pierson 19

    mike. WfF is a tax credit. If you think a tax break is welfare, well, I guess nothing will please you.

    Have to agree with deemac – what we see here is tories complaining both that there are too many and too few people receiving benefits.

  20. Dancer 20

    a couple of comments in reply – WfF is paid through the tax system. While some would like to see it as a welfare payment it is better described as a tax rebate. If anyone is curious or wants to see if they or their friends are eligible then http://www.workingforfamilies.govt.nz/ is the site to visit.

    As to the number of families who access working for families the website above says greater financial support is available for:

    – almost all families with children, earning under $70,000 a year
    – many families with children, earning up to $100,000 a year

    There’s also a useful report which looks at the effects of reforms in 2003-5 which says: “With Working for Families and the changes introduced with the 2002 reform, the number of people receiving DPB has fallen substantially. The Household Labour Force Survey shows that the proportion of sole parents who are working full-time has increased rapidly and in the year to June 2007 was at its highest level in the history of the survey.” http://www.msd.govt.nz/work-areas/families-whanau/dpb-widows-reform.html

    And as to the claim that people are shifting between benefits, Ruth Dyson provided some useful figures in an answer to a question in the house:
    Dyson:”In the last 8 years, 8.8 percent of all unemployment benefit cancellations were the result of a transfer to the sickness benefit, and less than one-third of 1 percent of all unemployment benefit cancellations were the result of a transfer to the invalids benefit. Those figures should finally put to rest the accusation that the Opposition spokesperson on social welfare consistently makes that these outstanding figures of the reduction in those on the unemployment benefit are as a result of a transfer to another benefit. That is not true; they are the result of people moving into paid work.” http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Debates/QOA/2/d/0/48HansQ_20080416_00000776-11-Unemployment-Benefit-Reports.htm

    BUT my real question is when will be find out what National’s policy on Working for Families is – it’s clearly having a far reaching impact and we still don’t know whether National will keep it, or if they’d change it and how.

    (and thanks for fixing my graph – i’m still learning how to do this sort of stuff!)

  21. ak 21

    Excellent work Dancer and rOb: proves conclusively what those of us working in the field have known for a long time, ie that Labour has made huge progress in the alleviation of hardship for those who most need it.

    Salient feature of this thread is the graphic demonstration of the incredible lengths and distortions that tory apologists like burt and dave will stoop to in their relentless efforts to grasp any straw whatsoever in order to push their depressing, pessimistic “New Zealand sucks” message. A disgraceful insult not only to the readers’ intelligence, but to the many dedicated people who work in this area.

  22. Jum 22

    Dancer

    Excellent rebuttal of National’s accusation of transfer from unemployment to sickness. I had been wondering myself, because, unlike blind and obedient National supporters I do question my Party of interest on their work.

    I do say ‘blind’ because in the area I am in 75% will vote National, yet no one knew about the truth from John Key’s mouth “we would love to see wages drop”. Truth could be that they would be happy about that.

    I see employers are already reducing pay to cover the 1% of employer payment to Kiwisaver. Talk about corrupt fraud, since they were getting a tax cut of that 1% anyway. Maybe they think National is already the Government, so they know they will get away with it.

    The Working for Families package has earned its place as encouraging Kiwis into work for proper advantage.

    Mike – many women are realising there is no reward for reproducing too. The reproduction rate of children which no doubt you would pick as worthy children is going down. It’s all about money, now, thanks to Douglas and Richardson. The other women, whose children you probably wouldn’t feel are worthy, are merely following religious dogma which says that’s all women are meant for because no one wants them for anything else.

  23. Lindsay 23

    I want to make a number of points;

    Your chart represents only the top of the graph which creates an illusion of substantial change.

    Many people who were receiving a partial DPB payment due to working now receive an In Work payment contributing to the reduced numbers.

    There are now more single parents on sickness and invalid benefits.

    In the year 2006 alone 500 recipients moved on to Super.

    But the exit rates have fallen for those with children over 14 and those with;
    – no qualifications
    – who were teenagers when their oldest child was born
    – who had already spent a large proportion of their time in the benefit system

    – Maori and Pacific recipients

    We are not reforming the DPB in any way that will prevent more people with these characteristics (or who will develop them) from entering the system in the first place.

    In September 1999 there were 2,687 18-19 year-olds on the DPB. By September 2007 the number had increased by 15 percent to 3,093. Additionally there are typically six or seven hundred 16 and 17 year-old teenage parents receiving the Emergency Maintenance Allowance at any given time. These are the people who will stay on the DPB long term.

    Nearly half of the Auckland region Work and Income Centres experienced a rise in DPB numbers during 2007. Typically centres are in the most deprived areas like Mangere, Clendon, Glen Innes and Manukau. Other rural towns and cities with high Maori populations have also experienced increases – Hamilton, Hastings, Kawerau and Ngaruwahia for instance.

    The young, poorly educated and unskilled continue to gravitate to the DPB. Not having experienced stability or security themselves, the parenting skills of these mothers are often inadequate or absent. Many will become long-term welfare dependants and so the cycle goes on.

    And finally I agree with psycho milt. There should be nobody on a benefit because they consider the available work demeaning. These people rely on the services provided by those prepared to do ‘demeaning’ work.

  24. Byron 24

    Someone may have already pointed this out, but

    Dave: “some are only working 20 hours – are not financially better off, they are just having their $60 paid for by teh (sic) taxpayer”

    No, they are having at most $15.20 paid by the tax payer, as someone working 20 hours a week for minimum wage pays $46.80 a week in tax, they are just getting their own tax back plus a little extra.

    And in every case that worker is also paying GST, so a chunk of that $15.20 is also coming from the tax that person pays on groceries etc, “the taxpayer” is paying about $12 of that 60 at a conservative estimate.

    Interestingly, if the minimum wage was $15 (as the CTU and ILO reccomend) that person would get the same amount as $12*20-hours in-work-payment, then that persons tax could (rather than going back into their pocket) fund heath, education etc.

    WFF is basically a form of corporate welfare, subsidising employers paying low wages with tax money that could better be spent for the good of society.

  25. Matthew Pilott 25

    Lindsay,

    Do you mind explaining what you mean by the following:

    We are not reforming the DPB in any way that will prevent more people with these characteristics (or who will develop them) from entering the system in the first place.

    Is this advocating a reform of New Zealand’s welfare system to not cater to those who are without qualifications, teenage parents, long term benefit recipients, or Maori and Pacific Islanders?

    Perhaps I’ve misunderstood, or you haven’t articulated it accurately, but I wouldn’t imagine it is the welfare system that needs reform to stop these people entering it, but other areas such as education, and targetting of long-term unemployed.

    Providing more resources to those who are likely to be long-term benefit recipients is the way to go. This can be tangibles, such as childcare or workplace training and apprenticeships.

  26. dave 26

    IN the interests of teh ful picture..
    If you have some figures for benefits increasing, they probably include superannuation
    No they dont include super – super is not a main benefit – and they are sourced from the link that you provided to benefit fact sheets. So thanks for being so helpful.
    NZ has a growing and ageing population, so the number on super goes up
    Thats why 500 beneficiaries became eligible for super in 2006.
    WfF is paid through the tax system
    Except if you are on a main benefit – then it is paid for by DWI.
    The Household Labour Force Survey shows that the proportion of sole parents who are working full-time has increased rapidly
    That was to do with worktesting, not WFF. For those who had older children over the age of 10, full time work decreased to part time and for those over 14 exit rates have fallen.

  27. “Dropping DPB numbers good? Hmm. The reality is that the welfare system has moved away from providing reasonable support to the unemployed (whether DPB or others) and now caters to people in work on low incomes.”

    That’s be cause we now have a free labor market, which has resulted in massive wage differential’s between workers who are deemed to be “low skilled” and “high skilled”. If we had centralised collective bargaining (like they do in AUS) as we had prior to National’s 1991 Employment Contracts Act we arguably wouldn’t need WFF, because the wage differential would be much smaller. But seeing as National chose to scrap the awards system, the government has been forced to do what it used to do – make sure that low-skilled workers can feed and house their families.

  28. Bill 28

    Never been called a Tory before! That’s kind of funny. My point is that benefit levels are punitively low and so people on DPB are forced in some instances to take low paid part time work with crap conditions.

    And because they must be working 20 hours, they become very compliant workers. In the cleaning and service industries, where a lot of these people work, there is a penchant on the part of bosses to randomly cut worker’s hours (ie for no genuine business reason). So if your WFF income depends upon you having 20 hours work (and paying secondary tax by the way), and your boss cuts you down to 19 hours….

  29. Jum 29

    Lindsay

    While on the DPB, a friend of mine was heavily involved in a sport, and after taking coaching courses et cetera coached three teams, was a treasurer, secretary, counsellor and personal budgeter for many families who needed financial help, because she has always budgeted. She taught them all, parents and children, about teamwork. (One of those valuable volunteer coaches you Conservatives grieve is being lost). She homeschooled as well.

    She was then told to get a job because her second child (to the ex husband in case you’re wondering) was over 18. She did that but had to give up her sport involvement. There was no time.

    She does enough work hours for a comfortable lifestyle, but without her in those other years at least 200 to 300 people would not have survived the ‘it’s all about me’ years of the Act and National Party moneymen. And they certainly would not have learned about teamwork or loyalty.

    She is just one of thousands of people who have or are contributing to our society. Not like one of those employers who through Kiwisaver 1% tax rorts are defrauding their employees, and have accountants to claw back any tax payments through creative accounting.

    I was happy to pay my taxes for what she accomplished for people struggling in my country. Less people for me to worry about a few years down the track.

    You never look inside the lives of people you condemn with your blanket judgmental attitude, do you Lindsay? Just your National mantra.

    Also the fact that you are a woman probably helps National with your condemnation of the DPB. Judith Collins is a useful token in that role as well.

    (A bit like a rapist having a woman lawyer which gives the impression that if a woman is defending the rapist, maybe he’s not bad after all.)

  30. Lindsay 30

    Matthew, The DPB acts as an incentive. A small number will intentionally get pregnant to secure an income. But a larger number will simply fail to avoid pregnancy because the prospect of motherhood on the benefit is no worse – and possibly better – than working at a low paid job. DPB shouldn’t be available as a lifestyle. All that is needed is a period of temporary assistance. I would rather to see babies raised by the family, or adopted out if that isn’t possible. As for separating couples, they might think a bit harder about what commitment to each other and their children means. Ultimately your child is your responsibility. Until we get back to a broad acceptance that this is the case then children will continue to suffer the consequences of a long-term welfare upbringing.

    I agree that education needs reform as well. As for childcare there is a huge resource not being used. The 40,000-odd women on the DPB who are caring for just one child.

  31. James Kearney 31

    Lindsay Mitchell wants a world where young women live in fear, young mothers are forced to adopt out their children and battered wives have no means independent support to get themselves and their children out of a violent or abusive relationship- and she bases all this on nothing more than prejudice about the DPB incentivising ‘irresponsible’ pregnancy.

  32. AncientGeek 32

    Lindsey: As far as I’m aware the majority on the DPB are parents taking care of children after failed marriages. They are also only on the DPB for a few years. That has certainly been the case around the people I know who have been on the DPB.

    If you know different, then how about some numbers rather than supposition.

  33. Steve Pierson 33

    Lindsay.

    a) you’ve never presented any evidence of people ‘breeding for money’ (I think that’s a Key quote, I’ll have to do a search for it)

    b) DPB numbers are falling

    c) even if there were small numbers of abuse of the system (and you have no evidence of the size of any such problem) that would not be a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The DPB has allowed tens of thousands of women to survive and look after their children in modest circumstances, rather than in poverty. It has formed a safety blanket for tens of thousands of women and children escaping abusive men. And all that in a system costs you less than a $1.50 a day, Lindsay.

  34. AncientGeek 35

    Steve: What also caught my eye was the age profile.

    The current age profile in the link that SP provided for Dec 2007

    1819 years 3.3%
    2024 years 15.2%
    2539 years 49.4%
    4054 years 27.2%
    5564 years 4.8%

    Thats what I’d expect. Widespread abuse of the DPB by teenage mothers is yet another myth. 75 % of recipients are in the 25-54 age group. That group is also where the majority of divorces and seperations happen.

    In other words the DPB is doing exactly what it is intended to do.

  35. Lindsay 36

    James, My suggestion was temporary assistance. Unfortunately women with a secure income and state-funded home frequently attract the sort of men who will abuse them because he doesn’t have to support her. Are you aware that as long as a female can prove that her ‘partner’ is abusing her mentally or physically – ie the relationship is ‘not after the nature of a marriage’- she can continue to receive welfare. So much for the DPB helping women escape abusive relationships. In a desperate irony it now pays the worst sort of partner to hang around.

    Ancient Geek, The average time spent on the DPB is near to 7 years. The figure commonly touted is 3 and a half but that is based on continuous stay. Many cycle on and off the benefit. Seven years doesn’t count time spent on other benefits as well – often as a consequence of never completing an education or acquiring skills. Australian research by Professor Bob Gregory showed dependent women spent an average of 12 years on welfare. This is why we have the ‘feminisation’ of poverty. The status of DPB recipients is roughly 40 percent single, 25 percent separated from a de facto, 31 percent separated, 3 percent divorced.

    Steve, I can only present anecdotal evidence from my experience volunteering, from letters teachers have written to me, from letters plunket and maternity nurses have written to me, from what teenage parent counsellors and teachers have said. As well, last year New Zealand Medical Association deputy chairman, Don Simmers, said that too many women are contemplating pregnancy ON a benefit. Statistics show that thousands of babies are born onto benefits each year. At July 2005 26,126 children had been added to a current benefit. I have already dealt with why the numbers have fallen.

    The financial cost is the least of my worries. I have been watching and working with this problem for years. We need to grasp the bigger picture. The decline in family formation and longevity, which has driven up all sorts of negative statistics is, in some part, attributable to the DPB.

  36. Lindsay 37

    Ancient Geek, With any DPB population snapshot, only a small percentage are teenagers because recipients are spread across a wide range of age-bands. But, and this is crucial, as many as half (and possibly a majority) started on welfare as teenagers. Look at it another way. If 100 percent of recipients were teenagers, the situation would be a vast improvement because, for this to be so, all would leave the DPB when turning twenty! They would only require state support for 2 or 3 years instead of 15 or 20 not uncommon for early-starters.

    At December 2006 at least 37,600 or 37 percent of current DPB recipients had first received a benefit as a teenager. If complete benefit histories could be accessed the percentage is likely to be much higher but MSD (accessible) records only go back to 1993.

    Steve, As already stated those figures apply only to each continuous spell on a benefit and at June 2007 43,866 were on their second, third, fourth etc spell.

  37. Matthew Pilott 38

    Lindsay, thanks for the comment. I find it contentious to claim women have children specifically to get an increased benefit, or avoid work – you’re implying they’re smart enough to realise the benefits of having a child, yet fail to consider the other implications. Still, such claims (from both sides) are always innacurate at best, based upon what I’ll explain below.

    There is a need to strike a balance between the ‘prepetuation’ of the benefit cycle, with the requirement for a benefit itself.

    I believe we can safely assume there will always be young women who get pregnant without the ability to support the child on their own, and often without their family willing or able to assist. Your point raises the question – what effect does the availability of the DPB have on the rate of pregnancies in the aforementioned circumstances?

    The problem with what you have raised is that any figures used will include all women in thse circumstances, and then blame it on the availability of the DPB. This is clearly a false premise – these things happen with or without a benefit.

    The marginal cost, therefore, of a benefit – based upon the greater number of women requiring the benefit purely due to its availability – is difficult to determine, although I can imagine you could look at pregnancy rates in comparable countries that differ in benefits available to young mothers. I don’t think you’ll find much difference that can be purely attributed to the benefit.

    Taking this all into consideration, I find it logical to conclude that the availability of a benefit doesn’t have a huge influence on teen/unsupported pregnancy – as said, it’s always going to happen.

    As a society, we must decide what to do in these circumstances. I’d advocate childcare and training, in tandem, to assist younf mothers into work where appropriate. Making a benefit temporary, more difficult to access, restrictive in value, or otherwise detrimental to the recipient, will also have a negative impact on the child – that’s where any prepetuation will occur.

    The problem you’re stating is unlikely to be significant enough to require drastic measures that will affect those genuinely in need – throwing out the baby with the bath water, as it were.

  38. AncientGeek 39

    Lindsey: If what you’re suggesting is true – then you’d expect to see a high proportion as long stay in the DPB. Looking at SP’s link again.

    Proportion continuously receiving current benefit

    Less than one year 26.8%
    Between one and four years 36.1%
    Between four and ten years 25.5%
    10 years or more 11.6%

    So 11 odd percent at 10 years. Probably a bit higher than I’d like. I’d prefer parents to reenter the workforce faster than that. But it has been quite hard in the past with the higher unemployment levels. It took my sister a while after her seperation – about 4 or 5 years to get her pair of under-5’s to scholl and to retrain.

    To get the effect you’re talking about – high percentages of long stayers on the DPB. You’d have to assume some kind of conspiracy that is dropping people on and off the DPB purely to fudge these figures.

    It doesn’t seem likely as the DPB is one of the largest benefits around, and there’d be a hell of a lot of screaming it that did happen.

    I’ve never seen it happen. If it did I’d have expected that my mother would be grilling me. She works at womans refuge where that kind of thing would be pretty obvious. As a Labour member paying my $15 per year, she considers that I am of course responsible for all government policy 🙂

    Frankly I think you are stretching it

  39. Lindsay 40

    Ancient Geek, I get my information from MSD under the OIA. People are constantly moving on and off the DPB. There are around 30-35,000 accepted new applications each year. The turnover is large. It’s not a conspiracy. The percentage on the DPB now, who started on welfare as teenagers, weren’t necessarily on it continuously. But the point I am trying to get across is that starting on welfare as a teenager is a strong predictor of high benefit usage over a lifetime.

    Matthew, Apart from the US there appears to be a reasonably strong association with benefit systems and teenage birth rates, or benefit systems and ex-nuptial birth rates. NZ and the UK are remarkably similar in both respects. On the other hand check out Sweden. There is no DPB equivalent in Sweden. Of all the children born in 2005 only 1,604 or 1.5 percent were to mothers under 20. In New Zealand there were 4,130 births to teenagers making up 7.2 percent all births in the same year. In New Zealand at least 18,000 custodial single parents either receiving or entitled to receive child support were under 25. This compares to only 5,500 in Sweden. But it is a difficult endeavour comparing countries with different ethnic make-ups and different mores and values. Southern Europe is still strongly affected by Catholic traditions, for instance. Libertad Gonzales however managed to demonstrate that the level of benefit was associated with the rate of single motherhood across Europe however.

    Our teenage birth rate in the lowest socio-economic area is ten times that of the highest. The poorest girls are more likely to proceed with a pregnancy, if not more likely to get pregnant in the first place. They have less to lose in terms of future prospects and they are surrounded by others who have made the same choice. It’s ‘normal’ to go on a benefit.

  40. AncientGeek 41

    But the point I am trying to get across is that starting on welfare as a teenager is a strong predictor of high benefit usage over a lifetime.

    I’d agree with that, and it is something that has to be worked on. It is a pattern of behaviour and extra effort and resources need to go into that group for education and workforce training. Perferably before they get pregnant. I’d favour getting family planning directly into the schools for extended periods in early puberty.

    My issue is that focusing on a what is probably a relatively small percentage (looking at the under 20’s) who may be on the DPB for extended periods is a problem in itself. In the 1990’s it proved to be the classic way of penalising everyone on the DPB by treating it as a punative system.

    I remember vividly my sister getting totally pissed off with having to go to social welfare (or whatever its name was at the time) to have an meaningless appointment. She was having to cut classes at her course at tech to go and wait for long periods of time at the office to talk to a social worker about how she was doing at tech. This was while she was trying to fit a 2-year retraining to get back into the workforce, around 2 small children going to daycare or school. This was common issue amongst a number of my friends who wound up with failed marriages.

    As far as I’m concerned that was a procedure that was specifically designed to be punative for the group you’re talking about. But it was one of the most stupid and pointless wastes of my taxes I could imagine for the majority of people on the DPB, who were on it only for a few years, and were actively moving back into the workforce.

    So whenever I hear people talking about the DPB

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