Lindsay Mitchell
Welfare commentator and researcher
lindsaymitchell.blogspot.com

Data released under the Official Information Act on Tuesday reveals almost 12,000 more children are dependent on welfare benefits since December 2017.

“At 31 December 2019 there were 206,395 children aged 0-18 reliant on caregiver on a main benefit (185,930), Young Parent Payment (1,531) or Orphan/ Unsupported Child benefit (18,934). That’s 6 percent higher than at December 31, 2017.”

Of the 59,637 births during 2019 10,882 babies were welfare-dependent by year end. Nearly one in five. Over half – 57% – were added to an existing benefit.

New Zealand’s child poverty problem cannot be solved when high numbers of children live in non-working homes. Raising benefits and reducing the income margin between work and welfare will only incentivise more people to opt for welfare. This normalises benefit dependency for their children and the habit becomes inter-generational.

In 2008 Finance Minister Michael Cullen said 

“…it is desirable to create a margin between being dependent on a benefit and being in employment….

The Labour Party isn’t the party that says living on a benefit is a preferred lifestyle. Its position has always been that the benefit system is a safety net for those who are unavoidably unable to participate in employment. From its history, the Labour Party has always been about people in employment.”

The more the current Labour government ignores this, the more intractable the child poverty problem will become.

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