In 2008 the Maori Party campaigned on ending child poverty by 2020. Child poverty is, however, implicitly tied in with welfare dependence.

Periodically Pita Sharples is heard promoting work-for-the-dole. He has said that welfare is hurting Maori, destroying their mana. And yet, in the same breath, he acknowledges that sole parents are part of Maori culture and must be supported.

The domestic purposes benefit is as much a part of the welfare system as the dole. Arguably, it forms a much bigger part statistically and economically. There are 107,000 people on the DPB compared to 59,000 on the dole. One in three working-age Maori women is welfare-dependent, most on the DPB.

That means roughly one in three Maori children relies on welfare, hence the Maori Party's further campaign promise to raise core benefit levels. Unfortunately increasing benefit payment rates has been shown through numerous international studies to increase the number of children born outside of a marriage or partnership, and the number of sole parent families grows.

But the state can't replace a father or mother. It can't provide what a child needs to flourish: love and security. It tries to take the financial place of father-provider but in doing so deprives the children of his protective and nurturing roles. Babies may need their mums more, but older children need their dads too, especially adolescents.

The DPB has made fathering and fleeing commonplace and accepted. Before the DPB men were jailed for not supporting their families. Draconian, possibly.

But the people responsible for raising children are the people who created them. With every passing week New Zealand gets further away from that simple idea.

More and more the taxpayer is called on to provide what parents cannot or will not, the latest being computers in the homes of poor children (many of which probably have Sky installed.)

It is a fact that the more that is done for people, the less they will do for themselves. That includes caring for and nurturing their families.

Until voters and politicians recognise this, New Zealand is going to keep on fighting a battle with childhood deprivation, transience, physical and mental ill-health, educational under-achievement, and crime - all disproportionately affecting Maori.

Distributing taxpayer funds into poor, and increasingly not-so-poor, homes has been going on for decades and every year there are people advocating for more. They claim to be trying to solve the problems associated with poverty when, in reality, they are worsening them.

New Zealand recently saw seven years of strong economic growth and record low unemployment. Yet the number of children in poor homes dropped only slightly.

That is because the DPB is a lifestyle and it is institutionalised.

When the United States declared war on poverty and expanded welfare in the 1960s, poverty won. When it reformed welfare in the 1990s, welfare rolls dropped dramatically and so did poverty levels.

For female headed households with dependent children the rate dropped from 35.6 per cent in 1991 to 25.4 per cent in 2000. Due to rocketing unemployment it has since climbed, but at 28.7 per cent in 2008, the number of children living below the poverty threshold is still much lower than pre-welfare reform.

Benefits do not cure poverty. If the Maori Party is genuine about ending the poverty of their children they urgently need to rethink their policies.

* Lindsay Mitchell is the author of Maori and Welfare, published by the New Zealand Business Roundtable in July.