WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Catholic agencies condemn new welfare policies

Catholic Social agencies have condemned as punitive and a backward step the government’s welfare initiatives which Social Welfare Minister Paula Bennett unveiled last month.
In announcing the policies, Ms Bennett said the measures were designed to ‘break the cycle of welfare dependency’.
‘I strongly believe people are better off in work; it’s better for them individually, for their children and their families,’ she said in a statement.
But, a Catholic Social Services social worker Trish Heward believes that the initiatives are a re-incarnation of the 1990s National Government policies.
‘Those policies caused deep division between the haves and the have-nots in New Zealand, the effects of which are still felt today.’
The initiatives, expected to cost 88 million over four years, will introduce a new study loan for domestic purposes beneficiaries and change funding to allow more childcare to be available.
Trish Heward believes a central problem with the new policies will be that they fail to recognise the role of parenting in New Zealand society.
‘Mothering is a job in itself and the government’s reforms do not recognise this. It’s putting solo mothers in a no-win situation and reinforcing stereotypes about solo parenting that are already in the community,’ she says.
Teresa Homan of the Hutt Valley Benefit Education Trust which offers advice to beneficiaries sees too many clients now needing special needs grants for basics like food.
‘These new reforms are not tackling the real issues – there are just not enough jobs,’ she says.
The initiatives see beneficiaries having to find work when their youngest child is six.
‘But six-year-olds need their mothers around particularly when they’re starting school,’ says Teresa Homan.
Both women believe that the changes will see mothers forced into  jobs that pay only the minimum wage.
Part of the new policy is a 90-day trial employment scheme. This will see employers able to dismiss an employee after 90 days if they consider the employee is not performing.
‘I suspect that there will be a lot of people employed for only 89 days,’ says Trish Heward.
‘I don’t see how Work and Income people can be trained to deal with the inevitable flow-on implications from this,’ she says.
Both women believe that the reforms, ultimately, are a way of punishing parents who are needing help from the State.