The Tom Oakura Column - Breaking the cycle of dependency
The National-led Government is committed to helping our most vulnerable improve their lives and those of their families.
We are working hard at taking a fresh approach to long-standing social problems including inter-generational welfare dependency and poor education.
To help us make the right decisions and investment of taxpayer money, we are using data to get a better understanding of the people who use government services and need our support.
For example, we now know the characteristics of some of the most vulnerable 1 per cent of five-year-olds. They are kids who have a parent who has been on a benefit for most of that child’s life, has a criminal sentence, and there has been a welfare notification about the child.
Around 600 Kiwi kids a year are in this category, and over 20 years they create a pipeline of 12,000 high-risk children who are likely to become heavily dependent on government services as adults.
We know that three quarters of these kids will not get a high school qualification, four in 10 will have been on a benefit for more than two years before they are 21, and a quarter will have been in prison by the time they are 35.
On average these kids will cost taxpayers $320,000 by the time they turn 35, and many will cost more than $1 million each.
Now we know these things, we have a moral obligation to act.
We are reconfiguring public services to intervene earlier to help people lead more-fulfilling lives.
Under this social investment approach, we’re willing to pay a bit more upfront to get long-term results for the most vulnerable New Zealanders.
We are finding that as we tackle the long-term social challenges that trap families in a cycle of dependency we also save taxpayers money, as these vulnerable families become less dependent on government.
Last year, we reduced the expected cost of supporting current beneficiaries over their lifetime by $7.5 billion. There are 42,000 fewer children living in benefit-dependent households than three years ago. And there’s been a 38 per cent drop in youth crime since 2011.
The flagship initiative of Budget 2015 is a $790 million child hardship package, which provides more support for 160,000 beneficiary and working families with incomes below $36,350 a year. This package includes greater work obligations for sole parents on a benefit. It also includes more childcare support for low-income families to help parents into work, education, or training.
Our approach is working. Our job is to stick at it.