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Valuing child care: beyond ‘show me the money!’

Written By: - Date published: 10:36 am, August 19th, 2014 - 10 comments
Categories: benefits, election 2014, greens, internet mana party, labour, Left, national, poverty, unemployment, welfare - Tags:

Simon Collins in today’s NZ Herald, has done a pretty good examination of various parties policies on social security (aka “welfare”): Election 2014: voters’ choice between the carrot and the stick.

He mainly compares the policies of National and Labour, with a small comment on the policies of the Internet Mana Party, and the Greens.  He also provides some historical, social and economic context to the changes in government policies over time.

The main element that is missing is any in-depth consideration of the importance of child care and raising children to society and the future of the country.  This has become the standard way social security, parenting and solo parents have come to be treated since the “neoliberal” revolution.  It’s all about immediate costs and getting as many people as possible into work. It focuses on narrow economic considerations and “balancing the books” now.

corporat welfare social welfare

Collins makes some very good points and comparisons between Labour and National in his article:

Welfare and social housing policies have been turned upside-down in six years of National-led government, introducing an “investment” approach that puts the most effort into those who need the most help to get off welfare and into work or training – especially young people, sole parents, and people with mental or physical ailments.

The policy is successfully reducing welfare rolls.


But Labour believes that what Social Development Minister Paula Bennett once trumpeted as “an unrelenting focus on work” has been too harsh, driving people back to work when they are still sick or caring for children or other relatives.

Labour’s major initiative is its “Best Start” policy – a plan to pay an extra $60 a week to all parents earning under $150,000 a year from whenever they use up any paid parental leave until a new baby turns 1, and on an income-tested basis to parents earning below $50,000 until the child turns 3.

In effect, this policy would prioritise fulltime parenting rather than paid work for those first three years.

However, he doesn’t really explain why full time parenting is of value to society, socially, educationally, health-wise, economically and with respect to building strong communities.

The outline of Paula Bennett’s welfare changes, in attempting to be objective and giving credit to National’s stated intentions, gloss over the punitive elements of the reforms.  I have posted a lot on this in the past. For instance, Auckland Action Against Poverty’s action impacts and WINZ offices provide a glimpse at the underbelly of Bennett’s reforms.  In counting the cost – a long time dying, I quoted Sue Bradford on the experiences exposed by the AAAP actions:

What the welfare reforms have meant over the last year has been that AAAP and other beneficiary groups have been very very busy trying to help people it impacts.  So many people are not being granted a benefit, or are having their benefits cut when they shouldn’t be or are on the wrong benefit.

The whole drive of Work and Income these days is to keep people of the benefit, or if they’re on it, to keep it as low as possible. And for many many people they simply do not have enough food to live on – enough to live on altogether from one week to [t]he next.

In comparing National and Labour policies, Collins points out that National has done nothing to restore the real value of benefits, that have been whittled away over decades.  In contrast, Labour, and the Greens and IMP have plans to restore the level of benefits so that people are not struggling to survive.

Collins also implies that the whole system needs an overhaul.

But neither Labour nor National has any definite plans to ease the disincentive to work caused by our targeted welfare system.

A left wing approach to social security treats everyone as a valuable part of society, where our lives and activities are completely inter-twined.  Creating the context for more livable and sustainable lives for the least well off benefits us all in both the short and long term.  It’s all laid out in The Spirit Level: Why equality is better for everyone, and by NZ’s Max Rushbrooke in Inequality: A New Zealand Crisis.

Many unpaid efforts and activities are part of child care, parenting, education and the raising of children.  These contribute towards the long term economic and social well being of society

Vote left for a society and community that strongly values child care, parenting, education and the raising of children.

Keep calm vote left

10 comments on “Valuing child care: beyond ‘show me the money!’ ”

  1. fambo 1

    Simon Collins is a nice chap with a strong social conscience. Put everything into free weekly City Voice in Wellington till it finally died. Good attempt though.

  2. crocodill 2

    Labour’s Best Start program will apply to children born on or after April 1, 2016. They say it twice on their document. They say if you have a couple of kids, they each get the payment, and re-iterate it applies to children born after etc etc. I don’t understand how this will meet current needs of children already born who (presumably) make up the figures in the graph. Are the figures they use a theoretical population after April 1, 2016? No, they state the numbers relate to current real people.

    Also I’m a little concerned that the unemployment policy link on the Labour webpage directs to “Work and Wages” which says nothing about either unemployment or welfare for those who are out of work. There is nothing on the webpage that uses the W word at all.

    The link between these two things is obvious to the unemployed with children or families, and should be to any party wishing to talk about addressing drivers of poverty.

    Another question, since I don’t have kids:

    What would $60 (theoretical maximum) realistically do for a parent raising a child under one year old, either working at job earning less than $50k p/a, or as solo parent, or as unemployed?

    • David H 2.1

      $60 a week if on a Benefit raising children could be the difference between mediocre food, and good healthy food, it could mean a decent pair of shoes, it could mean Books needed for school. I could go on. What would be better, would be to raise the benefit rate back to the levels before the Nats took a hatchet to payments to make their rich friends richer.

  3. Tracey 3

    I was intrigued to hear the family values man, peterdunne, saying dirtypolitics is irrelevant that policies matter but his continued nestling beside key, collins and their tactics seems hypocritical to me…

    He is offering flex super… Whoopie shit.

    Maori party also is child focused so they deserve some light shone on their policies…

  4. miravox 4

    It is a good-ish article. A bit tentative, imo. But then again I guess he wanted to stop before the hornet nest that is the debate about the merits of full-time parenting and quality childcare, and about the choices poor families with kids have got.

    I was also thought he omitted to discuss whether it was ‘right’ to reduce benefits in the 90s. There is a context but it terms of a ‘given’ that the benefit changes have been inevitatable.

    He hits a little on the idea of discussing the universal/targeted benefits – good that he highlighted the problem of disincentives to work due to targeted benefits.

  5. Murray Olsen 5

    Where have Labour said they intend to restore benefit levels? If they have, I know a few people besides myself who have missed it.

    • Tracey 5.1

      If its in their manifesto or policies its deeply hidden. Manifesto covers announced policy only. All their writing about living wage, that i could see, is about those in work.

  6. Tracey 6

    With average Rates increases of 33% between 2011 and today in Auckland city guess what is about to happen to all renters, which is most beneficiairies

    “Auckland landlords are hiking rents amid fears of big rates increases next year on the back of spiralling property values.

    The Property Investors’ Federation says landlords are already trying to claw back rising costs and predicts average rents for a three-bedroom Auckland home could jump up to $40 a week.

    Crockers Property Group says many landlords will inevitably pass any increase on to tenants.

    “They’re in business to get a return and that’s, unfortunately, the nature of the beast,” said chief operating officer Dean Cates..” Herald 21 August 2014

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