It was not too long ago that the National Party was in opposition and calling the Labour Party supporters of the nanny state. Now it appears that the Minister for Social Development wants to claim the title of 'nanny' for herself.

In announcing her new social obligations policy yesterday, it seems the minister has become ideologically confused. The new policy means beneficiary parents must enrol their child aged between 3 and 5 in early childhood education, or lose a portion of their benefit.

Paula Bennett has taken away the right for a parent to choose whether or not their child attends an early childhood education centre - trampling one of the sacrosanct tenets of neo-liberals everywhere.

The minister appears to be working under the belief that beneficiaries do not have the wherewithal to decide what is best for their children, and seems to have forgotten that current New Zealand law does not yet require children under the age of 6 to attend school.


The minister fails to cite any hard evidence that suggests all children benefit from organised early childhood education conducted away from the home.

However, there is evidence to suggest that social development is retarded by the absence of adequate finances that enable appropriate socialisation - but that does not always need to take place at an early childhood education facility.

Surely, as long as the child is being socialised and his or her needs are being attended to, that should be enough? It seems, however, that the Minister of Social Development is more interested in 'playing the gallery' than developing play.

Dr Andrew Cardow is a senior lecturer in Massey University's School of Management.
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