Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sticking it to sole parents

I've just had my say on Paula Bennett's latest set of sticks to beat sole parents with - have a look at my latest Letter from Elsewhere on Scoop.  But to get a real feel for what's happening, have a look at the manual for MSD staff who have to administer the new rules. See if you can make sense of them. Then see if you think you could make them work fairly.

There seems to be very little emphasis on (a) helping sole parents actually find suitable jobs or (b) finding out what's actually going on in their lives that might lead to them failing their work test - and losing half their benefit. Knowing what precarious circumstances many sole parents live in, I can all too easily imagine you being judged guilty because you've had to find somewhere new to live, or your child has had an accident, or your car has broken down completely and there's no public transport...

Paula Bennett makes great play with the fact that she's been a sole parent. Yet she seems to have absolutely no idea of the real-life situations people at the bottom of the heap have to grapple with every day.

As for John Key - oh no, wait. His mother was a widow. So even if he was a child again now, she would come into the one category of sole parent who doesn't have to face the new Work Test.

Losing your partner by death is a tragedy. But having seen the many ways in which women (and a few men) can suddenly find themselves a sole parent, I simply do not understand why this distinction is still being made.

What is there about being deserted by your partner, or being beaten up and having to run away from your partner (and your home), that automatically makes you completely unable to act sensibly and responsibly (as I have no doubt John Key's mother did) and decide for yourself when you and your child/ren are ready and able to add paid work to your existing workload of parenting alone? (If you can find any, that is.)

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