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Social Security Bill 'targets responsible parents'

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Under the new Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill, parents who want to make their own decisions about their children’s health and education will be targeted for open-ended penalties including CYFS investigation.

Barbara Smith, National Director of the Home Education Foundation (HEF) of New Zealand, believes that Kiwi parents should have "huge concerns" about the Bill. "Under the ‘social obligations’ in the Bill beneficiaries will be compelled to send their children aged 3-5 to an approved Early Childhood Education provider for at least 15 hours per week, ensure that their children attend school from age 5/6, register their children with a general practitioner, and attend all the government-approved Well Child checks.

"Hundreds of parents have contacted me over the last few weeks really concerned about this new policy," Mrs Smith says. "Many of them realise they could be on the benefit if their breadwinner loses his job, or are currently on the benefit and don’t want to be parted from their children."

Unfortunately, beneficiary parents who make informed and responsible decisions not to follow the government’s health and education programme will face open-ended penalties.

"Under the Bill, parents who fail to comply with the ‘social obligations’ will undergo three phases of ‘support contact’ with their caseworker," Mrs Smith explains.

"After that, if the parents continue to stick with what they believe to be right, they’ll undergo a 50% benefit cut.

"Worst of all, beneficiaries who continue on the 50% cut will be subject to what the Bill calls ‘intensified case management support.’ This sounds fine until you discover what that actually means."

According to the Ministry for Social Development’s Welfare Reform Paper E, "There are already operational processes in place for clients to be referred to CYF or fraud investigation if they continue on a fifty percent sanction."

"In other words, if a beneficiary refuses to do what someone else thinks is best for her child, she will face ongoing harassment by social services," Mrs Smith says.

Mrs Smith points out that irresponsible parents can be easily persuaded to send their children to preschool or attend Well Child checks. "Paula Bennett, who sponsored the Bill, says that it’s trying to help vulnerable children. Why is there no option for parents who simply want the freedom to make their own decisions? Only conscientious parents who want something better for their children and are willing to suffer the consequences will be targeted by these onerous sanctions."

Mrs Smith believes a significant minority of Kiwi parents will suffer under these sanctions because of their responsible and principled decisions.

"Many parents would never send their children to preschool as a matter of conscience, and are dedicated to providing quality learning environments in their own homes. Others have made informed decisions against immunisation and don’t want to be forced to attend Well Child checks where they will be pressured to follow the programme."

Mrs Smith hopes all concerned Kiwis will make a submission to the Select Committee by the deadline on November 1.

"It’s vital that we stand up for the beneficiaries, who are about to lose so many of their rights. Otherwise, when they decide to extend these ‘social obligations’ to the rest of us, what will we say?"

More information and materials for writing a submission can be found at www.hef.org.nz.

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