Once upon a time there was a solo-mum…
… and a Wicked Wacko Witch.
Sally* is 37 and a solo-mother with an 18 year-old (Wayne*) and 11 year (Zack*) old sons.
Sally had Wayne to her first partner, but the relationship did not last because of drug-taking and violent abuse on his part. (Some months after they separated, he committed suicide.) Sally went on to the DPB, raising her newborn son by herself.
Seven years later, Sally met someone else and formed a relationship with him. The relationship went well and she became pregnant (a son, Zack) to her new partner.
As her pregnancy progressed, Sally’s partner seemed to go of the rails, and he increasingly took up drink and drugs with his boozy mates. As Sally said, he “was more into his mates than his family” and she finally threw him out.
Sally was adamant she did not want someone like him as a role-model for her sons. She went back on the DPB and began to examine her options in life.
Eventually, Sally applied for a course at Victoria University for a bachelors degree in early childhood education. She applied for, and got, the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA).
Zack’s father saw his young son a couple of times during his first year as a newborn and infant, but thereafter showed little interest in maintaining contact. He eventually disappeared from Sally and her children’s life. She was on her own to raise her sons – a role she took seriously, and sought no new relationships with men.
Instead, she applied herself to her university course.
Sally says that the TIA helped her immensely, paying her transport, study-costs, fees, and childcare for her sons. She says,
“You could only get the TIA on the DPB, not on the dole, which I thought was unfair.”
After her graduation, Sally followed up with a Masters degree, which took another four years in part-time study. During the final two years of her uni studies, she took up a part-time job. This decreased the amount she received on the DPB, and her part-time job was taxed at the Secondary Tax Rate (her benefit was considered as a “primary job” by the IRD).
Sally took out a student loan for her M.Ed, as WINZ would not pay the Training Incentive Allowance for higher university education.
One could view the “claw back” of her DPB and higher tax-rate on her part-time job as a dis-incentive which penalised Sally, and others in her position, but she persevered. With end-of-year tax refunds, she says it “all squared out” – but she could have done with the extra money through the year.
Sally graduated and got her Masters degree in early childhood education. By this time, Wayne was 14 and Zack, 6. One month later, she found a full time job and replaced the DPB with a good salary. She says that the MA gives her an extra $11,000 per annum.
During her studies and part time job, Sally raised her two sons – one of whom was increasingly “challenging” with Aspergers and ADHD.
(This blogger can confirm that young Zack – whilst a bright, personable child – can also be “a handful”, and was effectively thrown out of his previous school for “disruptive behaviour”.)
We discussed the Training Incentive Allowance, which Paula Bennet used to put herself through University. I asked her,
“With being on the DPB, and with the availability of the TIA, do you think it assisted and motivated you to get yourself of the Benefit?”
“With the TIA, definitely. If I’d have to borrow money, yeah, I think that would’ve been quite daunting, I guess. I mean, I had to take out a student loan anyway, so if I’d have to borrow more, it would’ve taken longer to pay back. The extra assistance helped.”
“So the TIA, you believe, was a good incentive?“
“Yep, yep, otherwise some people would probably stay on the benefit, especially when working part-time and being on a part benefit, is hardly worth it, especially at a certain level. So I think training to get a higher income to make it worth going off the benefit and not have to borrow thousands of dollars for it, yeah, that’s a good incentive.”
Sally has now been off the DPB; in paid employment for the last four and a half years; and paying tax on a good salary. She is also spending more, and her oldest son, Wayne is now doing tertiary education himself.
Being a taxpayer means that she is now “paying it forward”, to support the next person who requires state assistance. This is what welfare should be about.
Unfortunately for us, the Minister for Social Welfare, Paula Bennett, who was on the DPB herself and used the Training Incentive Allowance to gain a University degree – has canned the TIA.
Only a National Government can screw up a system that actually succeeded in training and upskilling people; getting them off welfare; and into paid work. One cannot help but wonder if National secretly wants thousands of people on welfare, to create a pool of cheap labour, and drive down wages…
Sally has worked hard; bettered herself; improved her family’s financial position; and has raised two sons in a good home – one of whom is in tertiary education now.
This is a good outcome due to progressive government policy.
Please, Mr Key, may we have some more?
* Sally and her son’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.
For a better New Zealand…
~ Cleaner rivers
~ No deep-sea oil drilling
~ Less on Roads - more on Rail
~ A Living wage at $18.40/hr
~ Marriage equality - Yay! Got that one!
~ Strong, effective Unions
~ No secret free-trade deals
~ Breakfast/lunches in our schools
~ Introducing Civics into our school curriculum
~ Cut back on the liquor industry
~ A fairer, progressive tax system
~ Fully funded, free healthcare
~ Ditto for education, including Tertiary
~ Fund Pharmac for Pompe's Disease medication & other 'orphan' drugs
~ No state asset sales!
~ Rebuild public TV broadcasting!
~ Keeping farms in local ownership
~ Reduce poverty, like we reduced the toll for road-fatalities
~ Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!
~ Being nice to each other
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