CPAG's latest publication: WWG recommendations and the well being of children

Released Jan 2012

This briefing from Child Poverty Action Group reviews Chapter 7 of the Welfare Working Group's Final Report and Recommendations pertaining to the wellbeing of children.

The Briefing observes that the Chapter has little to say about improving children's wellbeing, but is more concerned with monitoring and sanctioning their parents. More broadly, the Briefing argues that ‘the relentless pursuit of work’ is not a suitable purpose for the social assistance system, and that it should instead be focused on meeting the needs of children and reducing poverty. 

Download the full report by clicking here: CPAG Brief on Chapter 7 of the Recommendations: Promoting the Wellbeing of Children

The Welfare Working Group (WWG) reported back to the Government with its recommendations for ‘reducing long-term benefit dependency’ in New Zealand (Welfare Working Group, 2011, p. 101). The Government’s premise that New Zealand has a problem with long-term welfare dependency set the questions the WWG asked, and how it went about answering them.

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), along with dozens of other community organisations, contributed submissions, however the main thrust of many submissions was ignored as the WWG set out to prove New Zealand has an ‘unsustainable’ dependency problem, and that moving welfare recipients, and sole parents in particular, into paid work will make them and their children always and unambiguously better off.

A recurring theme throughout the WWG’s publications (Welfare Working Group, 2010a, 2010b, 2011) is that eliminating ‘dependency’ is necessary for the wellbeing of children, as are increased expectations and responsibilities for their parents. The only evidence for ‘dependency’ is provided in some misleading graphs (see for example Else, 2010). Yet the WWG provides figures showing New Zealand’s labour force participation rate (including the labour force participation of disabled persons) is high by OECD standards. This indicates that ‘dependency’ as measured by the proportion of the population not in paid work is not the problem that the WWG (2010a, p. 37; 55) claims it to be.

In common with welfare reform in other liberal welfare regimes (Esping-Andersen, 1990), including recent proposals in the UK, the WWG argues that sole parent beneficiaries ‘must take greater responsibility’, where ‘responsibility’ is compliance with putative societal norms. There is seldom any corresponding responsibility argued for the role that the state must take to alleviate poverty or ensure income security. Rather, proponents argue state spending ought to focus on supporting parents into paid work. Thus the WWG recommends, for example, increased funding for job seeker support, including early childhood care and education (ECCE, although the WWG refers to it as ECE), and after school programmes.

The structure of this paper is as follows: the paper begins with a brief outline of the history of and rationale for the welfare state. The purpose of this is to recall why a centralised welfare state that provided public goods and universal entitlements for the needy was considered desirable, and to give a sense of how far the welfare reforms of the last 30 years have strayed from this. The section after this outlines the principles CPAG believes should be considered in the process of reforming the welfare system. Following each of these is a general commentary on the WWG’s position, and an analysis of that position. This establishes the base from which the WWG was working, and sets a context for what follows. The paper then considers in detail the recommendations contained in Chapter 7 of the report, Promoting the Wellbeing of Children, followed by an analysis and commentary on other recommendations contained in the report that are relevant to children. The conclusion provides a short overview of the preceding analysis.

Download the full report by clicking here

For more info on the WWG and Welfare Reform, click here