The status quo:
The Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB) is currently available to those who are over 18, responsible for at least one dependent child who is under 18, and have no partner (the other parent or anyone else). As at 1st October 2008 the DPB is $304.93 a week before tax, and depending on the family's circumstances they may be able to access other Government support, like the Accommodation Supplement. At the moment those solo parents receiving the DPB may be required to participate in developing and signing a "Personal Development and Employment Plan", however it is made explicit that they cannot be pressured into taking up or accepting employment. There is also a requirement to apply for Child Support. Work & Income has more information about this benefit.
The Domestic Purposes Benefit was first introduced in 1974, by Labour. It has been predominantly accessed by single mothers, with a small number of solo-parent fathers receiving the benefit. It's pretty fair to say that the DPB has been probably the most controversial benefit in NZ's recent history, with ardent advocacy from some groups to work-test those who receive it, or abolish it altogether.
Party positions for the 2008 Election:
Act: Huge proportion of their welfare policy dedicated soley to DPB. Solo parents to access their own or the father's superannuation before being able to receive a benefit from Government. In favour of work-testing, possibility of access to education scholarships.
Alliance: No explicit mention of DPB, however "Setting ... benefits at a level that provides a liveable income for families" seems to indicate an intention to increase it?
Family: "Review all current welfare benefits that potentially incentivise parental separation, such as the Domestic Purposes Benefit." General policy on welfare indicates support for work-testing.
Greens: "DPB to be protected; no compulsory work-testing." Their general policies around benefit levels indicate an intention to increase them to a level sufficient to meet basic needs and then fix them to a percentage of the average wage.
Kiwi: Examine legislation that has contributed to "family breakdown", with the DPB specifically listed in a speech by Gordon Copeland.
Labour: No mention in Social Develoment Policy, however there is mention of the intent to continue with the "Core Benefit" approach, which would include the DPB.
Libertarianz: "All state benefits – including ... DPB - would be phased out to permit the growth of voluntary charities and private insurance."
Maori Party: Nothing specific about DPB, but policy states "We will designate an official poverty line at 60 percent of the median household disposable income after housing costs and set net income for those on benefits at this measure to prevent poverty."
National: "Extend part-time work obligations to: People receiving a domestic purposes benefit, once their youngest child is aged six or over..." and "Enshrine CPI adjustments to benefit payments in legislation so they increase each year in line with inflation."
NZ First: "introduce the Parental Responsibility Bill to require applicants for the DPB to sign an agreement with WINZ to the effect that they will agree to meet with a nominated social worker regularly to provide any assistance needed by the parent and for health and welfare checks for the child;" Mention elsewhere of work-testing, however not clear whether this would apply to DPB.
Progressives: (could not find any mention on website)
RAM: No explicit menton of DPB, however general benefits policy includes intention to restore to pre-1991 levels.
UnitedFuture: "Closely monitor the effectiveness of enhanced case management approach currently applied to domestic purposes recipients, to ensure that they move into appropriate employment as their children get older."
A full index of policy quickie posts can be found here.