Monday, May 11, 2015

Lindsay Mitchell: The End Child Poverty petition


The DomPost today published my response (below) to Unicef's National Advocacy Manager, Deborah Morris-Travers' column
 On the matter of child poverty, Deborah Morris-Travers writes, "let's be clear" but then isn't. She doesn't spell out the key demand of the End Poverty petition. It is to extend the In Work Tax Credit (IWTC) - a creation of the last Labour government - to beneficiary parents. She writes about parents who "can't find enough work" implying that a lack of jobs is driving child poverty.

One in five children born in 2014 was benefit-dependent by the end of the year. Many went directly onto a benefit, some shortly thereafter. That outcome cannot have come as a surprise to the parent. Most went onto Sole Parent Support which does not require parents to work until their child goes to school. This early dependency pattern goes back to at least 1993 regardless of the unemployment rate.

To then write that beneficiaries should receive bigger benefits so they have "the capacity to exercise their responsibility" is truly topsy-turvy.

For years public policy has incentivised irresponsibility about bringing children into the world. This petition asks the government to improve the incentive.
It was published under the heading "Poverty campaign wants benefit hike".

It's a good heading because that's exactly what the petition calls for and many thinking people have come to understand that welfare is the problem - not the solution.

That's not just a hopeful speculation either.

Despite loads of media publicity, links from columns in the DomPost and NZ Herald, even TV advertising, the End Child Poverty on-line petition, which calls for parents who don't work to get the In Work Tax Credit (which is like calling for childless people to receive Family Tax Credits) has garnered only 8,000 signatures.

Their aim is 100,000 because that's the number they believe will leave the government unable to "avoid the question: Is this the Budget to end child poverty?"

Of course, there may be more off-line signatures to be added but the on-line showing indicates that not many people agree with aim of the petition. It does not mean that they don't care about children in families that are struggling.

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