Welfare group mum rejects 'Nazi' claim

By Simon Collins

Sharon Wilson-Davis. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Sharon Wilson-Davis. Photo / Steven McNicholl

A Maori former solo mother who recommended free contraceptives for beneficiaries is defending her group's report against charges of Nazi-style racism.

Sharon Wilson-Davis, a solo mother of three by the age of 21, was a member of the Welfare Working Group which proposed radical changes to the welfare system in a report last month.

Former Green MP Sue Bradford said the group seemed to be "looking to Nazi Germany for inspiration, with its underpinning 'work makes free' philosophy, attempted eugenic control of a portion of the population, and its potential racist implications for Maori".

The group recommended work-testing almost all beneficiaries, including sole parents with no children under 3, and applying the work test after 14 weeks for parents who have another child after going on welfare. This was the only point on which the eight-member group disagreed.

The group also proposed "free long-acting reversible contraception" for parents who are receiving welfare".

Pharmac has fully funded a long-lasting hormone implant called Jadelle since August.

Mrs Wilson-Davis, whose Strive Community Trust runs work transition programmes for sole parents in Mangere, said on Tuesday that she supported both proposals to encourage young women to "make wiser choices".

"Fourteen weeks is the same as paid parental leave. You are going back to work, and if you don't like it, don't have another child," she said.

"What are your choices? We have a contraceptive device that is totally subsidised, so that when you are in better circumstances, if you have work or if you meet a lovely man and he's willing to support you, fine, have twins, have whatever. But not while you are in this situation."

She said the group was not racist, even though it found 31 per cent of all working-aged Maori were on welfare compared with 10 per cent of non-Maori.

"The Welfare Working Group is not a pack of Nazis," she said.

Mrs Wilson-Davis, 56, was raised by her grandmother in Otara and left school at 14 because she was embarrassed by not having the correct uniform or money for books.

She married her first boyfriend at 16 because "all I wanted was to have my own place".

When she was 21 her husband left her and their three children. She transferred to the night shift at a factory to pay the mortgage, and asked cousins to stay so they could feed the baby at 3am.

She said many young women had children because they wanted to be loved.

Welfare made people feel useless, she said, but she had seen huge changes in the women who came on her trust's course for sole parents.

One she cited was Taina Matthews, 49, a former battered wife who is working for the trust and completing a social work degree.

"I think of one woman who was cowering in a corner when she came in. Now she has blossomed."

IT'S BEEN DONE

The Welfare Working Group appears to be pushing on an open door with a proposal to offer "long-lasted reversible contraception" to all women on benefits.

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond said Pharmac began fully funding a new long-lasting hormone implant called Jadelle for all women last August. The hormone, contained in a tiny match-sized rod implanted in a woman's arm, is 99 per cent effective against pregnancy for three to five years. It can be reversed by removing the rod at any time.

The only cost is the fee for having the implant. At Family Planning this is free for women under 22.

Ms Edmond said the number of implants done through Family Planning jumped from 109 in the six months to the end of January last year to 1712 in the past six months.

"Implants are not for everyone," she said. "Some women suffer side-effects. We would like to talk more about offering subsidised intra-uterine devices and other intra-uterine systems."

- NZ Herald

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