This weeks Ladder Award goes to Paula Bennett, the National Party’s newly appointed Minister of Social Development for her approach to support or ‘back’ single parents (mainly women) with children who are on welfare, even if this includes support to go back on welfare if paid work or child care arrangements don’t work out (Refer to Radio New Zealand interview “Solo mothers’ return to work dilemma“)
In the 1990s the National government stigmatized female single parents, reduced their welfare payments and pressured them into paid employment – while putting their children into child care – whatever the cost for the women, children and society. The Labour government of the last nine years has essentially kept this regime intact.
Paula Bennett argues, refreshingly, that “there’s no harder job” than looking after children. She wants public discussion about what can work best and what can be unhelpful.
Of late, serious cases of violence to children have received much media publicity in New Zealand. A widespread response from politicians has been to call for punitive and costly policies, such as removing children from homes and putting parents in prison.
Paula Bennett is the first politician to seriously call attention to the effort that is required to care well for our children in the first place. This includes care and support for the parent (most often the mother).
The narrative that has been pushed to the fore in New Zealand (and much of the Western World) is about the benefits of paid work for women and the benefits of institutional child care for the child, mother and society.
What is driving this narrative about the benefits of having women in paid work and children in child care – seemingly at any cost?
Is Paula Bennett right – do we need more conversations about what she refers to as “an amazingly difficult and amazingly rewarding job of care of our children”?
What do you think?
Refer to “Cabinet’s new poster girl” article in the New Zealand Herald Saturday Nov 22, 2008, by Simon Collins for background of Paula Bennett, which includes being a sole parent on welfare.
PDF 28KB of article if problem accessing on-line
Refer also to excellent website about early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand ECE EXRESS – with links to information and resources – including Dr Sarah Farquhar’s website – she is mentioned by Paula Bennett and also has a concern about care.