The Bay has seen one of the largest drops in Sole Parent Support numbers, according to new figures, but surging economic growth may not carry all the responsibility. The Bay of Plenty came a close second with an 8.2 per cent decrease in those receiving the sole parent benefit compared to Auckland's decrease of 8.3 per cent. The statistics were released from the Ministry of Social Development yesterday. Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Diane Bruin said the figures reflected reality in her experience, but it was a result of a combination of factors, including Tauranga's good economy. "With the economic upturn in Tauranga there are more jobs ... it's definitely gotten much better as far as jobs go. The tourism and economy in the area have contributed to more opportunity for part-time work." Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust social services manager Piki Russell said it was not necessarily a case of more sole parents working, rather quirks of the system saw sole parents reshuffled onto another benefit under a different name. "Once their children are able to go to daycare, the parents come under another category. They are no longer Sole Parent Support, as in they don't have to do anything. They then come under Jobseeker Support." Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust senior social worker Jenna Young said another reshuffle to consider was that many sole parents were going to study, made easier by the 20 hours of free childcare. "Then they come under the student allowance benefit as opposed to the sole parent benefit. You used to be able to study on the benefit but you can't now, so student allowance has changed where they give families the same rate as the benefit." A former beneficiary, who spoke to the Bay of Plenty Times on the condition she was not named, said coming off the benefit was tough. "For somebody like myself, I worked hard to get off the benefit and it was a tough choice, because I was swapping hours spent with my children for not much extra money. It's hard to make that choice to be away from your children but then some of them are teenagers and I want to set an example for them," the mother-of-five said. She said she would not have been able to get by without the assistance, and when she went off the Sole Parent Support she was still receiving accommodation allowance and food grants. People needed to be careful when considering going off the benefit, because juggling working 40 hours and disruption to home life routine could cause families to fall over, she said. "People need a lot of guidance when they come off the benefit, the reminder to structure their time at home and not to start spending more because they think they are earning more." The Social Development statistics also showed the number of Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty people receiving any kind of benefit in March was the lowest it has been in two years. In March, 2014 there were 8361 people receiving a benefit in Tauranga, while in March this year only there were only 7100 recipients. In March, 2014 there were 2468 recipients in the Western Bay of Plenty compared to 2098 in March of this year.
Benefits Sole Parent Support is assistance for single parents or caregivers with one or more children aged under 14. It provides full support until the youngest child is 3, where then the sole parent must look for part-time work of 20 hours a week. Job Seeker Support is for beneficiaries looking for fulltime work or willing to work fulltime but temporarily unable to.