Tuesday 14 November 2023

50 years of welfare breaking up families


Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell reminds us that today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the one welfare measure responsible more than any other for supporting family break-up, and creating generations utterly dependent on largesse from the Welfare State.  In her measured words, 

the growth of the sole-parent family dependent on welfare has correlated with more poverty, more child abuse and more domestic violence. Each of these was intended to be reduced by the introduction of the DPB.

After fifty years, it's time to recognise that the opposite has happened. 

In 1966, in her summary

there were 922,349 dependent children under 16 years of age. 883,239 depended on married men or 96 percent of the total. A further two percent (19,829) depended on widows or widowers. The remainder had unmarried, separated, divorced (and not remarried) parents, or were orphans.

So, seven years before the DPB was introduced fewer than five percent of New Zealand children were in a one-parent situation. More than ninety-five percent of children lived in two-parent families.

After a "temporary" Domestic Purposes Emergency benefit was introduced by Holyoake's National Government, the Kirk Labour Government made it permanent, "having been hurried along by a National private member’s bill to the same effect." At the time, the new benefit barely even attracted any attention. But numbers soon exploded" 

'Children with a parent on DPB increased from 4% of all children under 18 in 1976, to 17% in 1991, and to 19% in 1996.”

And now: New Zealand has 1,123,500 children, 404,700 of whom , over a third of New Zealand's children, are living with a sole parent who is largely or wholly dependent on 'the benefit.' 

And "in the most deprived neighbourhoods," Lindsay notes, the percentage is much higher."

In the words of David McLoughlin, whom she quotes, the Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB) has been a "disaster."

A temporary "emergency benefit," based on "need" was replaced with a permanent benefit based on a so-called entitlement, inviting -- nay, encouraging! -- generations to rely upon it as a way of life. Disastrous for them, for their offspring, and for those who pay their bills. And also for what some commentators refer to as "social cohesion." As Thomas Sowell reminds us:

“One of the consequences of such notions as ‘entitlements’ is that people who have contributed nothing to society feel that society owes them something, apparently just for being nice enough to grace us with their presence.”

And when thwarted, niceness can turn to anger. To deprivation and resentment. And to Entitle-itis -- including encouraging parents to split to increase their welfare income. (“'Perversely, because benefit eligibility reflected individual circumstances, and benefit rates and means testing were based on family income, many families were better off financially to separate.' One parent would claim the DPB while the other claimed the unemployment benefit.)"

Lindsay's post lays out the history of this most disastrous of welfare schemes, and today's tragic result of family break-up. Right now, she summarises:

  • Benefit-dependent single parents are on the rise again. 
    • They proliferate in emergency housing. 
    • Single parents have the lowest home ownership rates, and the highest debt-to-income ratios. 
  •  Police report that family violence is at record levels – 
    • single welfare-dependent females are the most vulnerable to partner violence, according to victim surveys. 
    • The correlation between substantiated child abuse and appearing in the benefit system is incredibly strong. 
  • Child poverty now drives both a public and private industry of people who claim to be helping to alleviate poverty. 
    • There are domestic child sponsorship programmes, KidsCan, Variety, etc. Forget famine-stricken African nations.
  • While benefits became more generous ... remaining obligations to the taxpayer became passé. 
    • There is no sign whatsoever that a resumption of deserving and non-deserving considerations will make a comeback. In fact, morality is ever more remote. 
    • Widows who become sole providers through no fault of their own are no longer differentiated from gang women who produce children as meal tickets. 
    • No distinction is made between reasons for ‘need’:the taxpayer is expected to like it or lump it, despite the fact that fifty years of trying to solve social problems with cash payments has only made them worse.
The DPB has changed its name, but not its outcomes -- which have only deteriorated. Despite that, there is zero pressure to change it, and no political courage anywhere to even reform it. "When reforms do occur," she concludes, quoting US commentator Charles Murray, "they will happen not because the stingy people have won, but because generous people have stopped kidding themselves.”


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