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'One-size-fits-all approach leaves parents with no options'

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Parents will be left with no options under the new Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill, says Barbara Smith of the Home Education Foundation (HEF) of New Zealand.

Under international human rights instruments and the Care of Children Act 2004, section 16, parents have the right to make important decisions for their children, including where and how the children will be educated and what medical treatment they will receive.

"The ‘Social Obligations’ in this bill prevent parents from making their own decisions about health and education," says Mrs Smith. "Under the bill, parents will be forced to send their preschoolers to an approved Early Childhood Education (ECE) provider, register them with a GP, and attend all the core Well Child checks."

In a letter to the Home Education Foundation dated 25 October 2012, Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett stated, "I know that most beneficiary parents are acting in the best interests of their child and engaging in appropriate services." According to Ms Bennett, the most disadvantaged families in the benefit system are the ones that fail to "engage in appropriate services."

"If Paula Bennett knows that most beneficiary families act in their child’s best interests, why is she making ECE compulsory?" Mrs Smith asks.

"The answer is that she believes ‘engaging in appropriate services’ is a measure of whether families are ‘disadvantaged’ or not.

"What about the families who want to opt out of ECE and Well Child checks, providing education at home and quality health care from providers they choose themselves? They’re going to be labeled ‘disadvantaged’ and ‘vulnerable’, simply for not following the government programme."

Paula Bennett assures beneficiary parents that Work and Income will "engage and support parents to meet their obligations" for a six to eight week period before levying the 50% sanction and-if the family appears problematic--calling CYF.

"Families don’t want six to eight weeks to get sorted out," says Mrs Smith. "They want to keep their preschoolers home from ECE. They want to home educate their children.

"What about parents’ right to choose the education their children receive?"

Mrs Smith emphasises that this is not just the law of the land but also a fundamental human right.

"It’s the parents’ responsibility to choose their child’s education. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that parents have a ‘prior right’ to choose how their child will be educated. The Care of Children Act states that parents have the right to determine ‘where, and how, the child is to be educated’. Thousands of Kiwi parents want to exercise this right to educate their children at home, including in preschool.

"This bill will result in significant hardship for parents who want to choose to educate their children. These parents do not want to be ‘supported and encouraged’ to comply with social obligations. They do not want to ‘engage in appropriate services’ because they believe they can provide superior services. They do not want free ECE, although they pay for it with taxes. They do not want free health checks. They do not want to be supported, encouraged, lectured, or harassed to do anything.

"They just want the freedom to do what they know is right."

Mrs Smith encourages all concerned Kiwis to make a submission to the Select Committee by the deadline on November 1. Ms Bennett’s letter 2nd letter from Paula Bennett to Barbara Smith and materials for writing a submission can be found at www.hef.org.nz.

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