Single mums slam plan to enforce childcare

By Cherie Taylor

Minister Paula Bennett's latest attack on beneficiaries shows she has lost touch with her roots, a Rotorua single mother claims.

The Minister of Social Development says that as of next July, beneficiaries who fail to take reasonable steps to keep their children in certified early childhood care for at least 15 hours a week, from age 3 until they go to school, will have their benefits halved.

The sanctions come into force if other obligations are also not met, including enrolling children with a doctor, having them attend school from the age of 5 or 6 and completing Well Child checks.

Chanz Mikaere said the moves were heavy handed and devalued parenting. "It's a bullsh** position. Basically, she is saying we don't have the right to parent our babies. This is a middle-class thing ... Paula Bennett has lost all connection with her roots.

"She says 'I've been a beneficiary' and then goes and slams others. She has no idea ... no concept of compassion or empathy.

"She just doesn't get it ... she is taking away our right to be first teachers of our children."

While early childhood care was subsidised, many parents would be put under financial pressure if forced to comply, Ms Mikaere said.

"Budgets just won't stretch that far. It's going to cause even more poverty and strain for families.

"At the end of the day it's the kids who will suffer. Why punish the most vulnerable?"

Another Rotorua beneficiary, Caroline Masters, said she believed the move would push already struggling families deeper into the poverty trap.

"It's ridiculous. These are the most vulnerable children in our community. How on earth this Government thinks this will help people is beyond me."

She also believes she is the best person to teach her children until they go to school.

"This is the most important job in the world. We are growing future leaders."

Adverse comments have also been left on The Daily Post's Facebook page.

One person posted a message saying this was just benefit bashing of people who needed support to improve their lives.

"For the protection of children the Government asks parents to act in a certain manner and if they don't act in this manner then the Government will hurt the children.

"It is a huge waste of time and money [can you imagine trying to audit this?] and I am surprised that National, after trying to seem fiscally responsible over asset sales, even put this on the table."

Meanwhile, the organisation Every Child Counts welcomed the move but said individual circumstances needed to be taken into account.

The national organisation's chairwoman, Liz Gibbs, said every child had a right to access early childhood and health services - not just those of beneficiaries.

"It makes so much sense for our society to be clear about its expectations of parents.

"These expectations should apply to all parents. The vast majority of parents want the best for their children and if they are educated about the benefits to children of accessing services they are very likely to do so."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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