with the government deficit blowout, there's going to be a push in the next budget to cut spending (of course, given that tax cuts haven't worked in pushing the country out of recession, it would be heresy of the government to consider reversing them). one of the biggest areas of spending is on social support - for the unemployed, the ill, the elderly, and sole-parents.
unsurprisingly, mr key has been pretty forceful in protecting payments to the elderly, refusing to contemplate raises to the age of eligibility of superannuation & making no mention of cutting or keeping constant the amount paid out. yet the government cut payments to the cullen fund and cut support for employers who paid into kiwisaver, thereby ensuring that there will be less money in the future to meet the expected rise in super costs. but it's hard to vilify older people as a class, because everyone gets old & there's not much that can be done about it.
the unemployed, the ill and sole-parents are much easier targets, even though many who fall into these groups are there through circumstances beyond their control. in some cases, the circumstances may have been better controlled, but the decisions taken were the best in the circumstances. and of course, there are some cases where people are rorting the system. it's usual to use a few examples of the latter to vilify entire groups of people, to try to minimise or erase any sense of empathy, social responsibility or inclusion for these groups.
sole-parents, being largely female, become the easiest target in a society ready to label these women selfish & promiscuous. expect to see a lot more of the same in the coming months, and for life to become increasingly difficult for sole-parents & their children as the state seeks to punish them for failed policies that have led to the recession and budget blowout. as this is a group that is often underpaid & overworked and struggling to keep afloat, there are few opposing voices. those who have dared to oppose government policies have been targetted by a minister of social development who has been willing to reveal partial personal information & has yet to face any consequences for doing so. this is an effective strategy to silence any kind of dissent.
given this, it's nice to see a reasonable response in the herald by donna wynd to a piece from lindsay mitchell that i haven't the stomach to read:
What, then, do we know about sole parents? There are about 160,000 sole-parent households in New Zealand. About 113,000 of these are on a benefit. The number of sole parent beneficiaries has increased markedly since the onset of the recession in late 2008.
This is as expected, as sole-parent employment is highly sensitive to labour market conditions. Despite this, more than 40,000 sole parents, or more than a quarter of the total, are not on a benefit. Clearly there is little economic gain in being on a benefit for a significant proportion of sole parents. This is supported by data that shows consistently that on almost every measure, sole-parent beneficiary households are the most impoverished.
The benefit data shows that most sole parents have children aged under 5, and are off a benefit within four years. Those who stay on benefits for longer periods tend to be older, or much younger.
There has been little research on this but discussions with social workers suggest that some parents are looking after older children who have been de-institutionalised. These older children often have high needs and require constant care.
i'd really recommend the whole piece, though a warning about the comments which are pretty hostile. i continue to be amazed at the vitriol and hatred some people are willing to dish out to others, without even bothering to learn about their individual circumstances. yes, i know i should be used to it, but it's something i never do want to get used to. i hope to continue to be shocked and appalled by this kind of nastiness as long as i live.