Labour MP Jo Luxton opened up about her own struggles as a sole parent relying on the food bank as she supported repealing what she called a "disgraceful" social policy introduced by National in 2012.
The House erupted into at-times fiery debate this morning as a bill to repeal the subsequent child policy brought in by National's Paula Bennett in 2012 passed its third reading.
National MPs claimed removing it would push parents into benefit dependence and dramatically increase child poverty, while Labour MPs said the policy never worked as intended and only increased stress, stigma and hardship for young families.
Luxton said she spoke "as a member of Parliament who has real first-hand lived experience as a sole parent on a benefit who had to rely on food banks to help feed my family".
"The rhetoric and reckons that have come from Opposition this morning that sole parents are, perhaps, uneducated and unmotivated is, quite frankly, revolting.
"There is no evidence that this piece of legislation will create dependency, there is only evidence that the previous policy has not worked."
The policy was introduced in 2012 to address long-term welfare dependency by placing obligations on parents to return to work if they had an additional dependent child while receiving a main benefit, based on the age of their youngest child.
It meant parents or caregivers would have work or work-seeking obligations once their youngest child turned 1, or risk losing some of their benefit.
The Social Security (Subsequent Child Policy Removal) Amendment Bill, introduced by Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni, would remove the policy and had support from Labour, the Greens, and Te Pāti Māori, with National and Act opposed.
The change would push out work obligations for those on sole parent support to when their youngest child was 3.
National Party social development spokeswoman Louise Upston said the bill was "purely winding back a piece of National legislation".
It was originally introduced "to support those on benefit to move off the benefit where possible, so that they can have a better quality of life and a higher income and greater opportunities", Upston said.
"This policy is removing, that, of course, delays the move into paid work.
"It will harm and hurt children and their long-term futures, and Labour should be ashamed of bringing this bill into the House."
National MP Nicola Willis said under the Labour Government 84,000 additional people had gone onto benefits, and 30,000 more children were now living in households dependent on benefits.
"This in a time of low unemployment with industry crying out for workers."
Willis said removing work expectations from women while they were on the benefit "entrenches dependence on welfare for a significant group of parents".
"In that context I take issue with the crisis of dependence emerging under this Government."
Minister of Internal Affairs Jan Tinetti, speaking on behalf of Sepuloni, said the policy had not worked, and had perverse outcomes.
"The practical impacts of this change are that parents will have more flexibility to spend time with their children, and the welfare system will be simpler and fairer for groups who are disproportionately impacted by the policy, such as Māori and women."
A briefing from the Ministry of Social Development found "no strong evidence to suggest that the policy has been effective in reducing time on benefit or improving financial or social outcomes".
It also disproportionately affected women, and particularly wāhine Māori.
As at April 30 this year, about11,400 people were impacted by the policy, of which 6400 of were Māori. About 9800 were female.
While Māori made up about 16.7 per cent of the population and 36 per cent of working-age main benefit recipients, they were about 56.1 percent of the total number of people impacted by the policy.
Removing the policy was "likely to reduce stress for the affected whānau, which may also have positive impacts for mental health and wellbeing", Tinetti said.
The bill had about 81 per cent support from submitters to select committee.
The changes will come into force on October 11.