Many years ago we did some assertiveness training at one of our former workplaces. The gist of what we can remember was that there was a big difference between assertive and aggressive behaviour. There was also recognition that assertiveness represented reaching a balance between one's rights and responsibilities.
The Government yesterday announced a series of social obligations for beneficiaries; this from the Beehive website:
Incorporating important health and wellbeing goals into welfare reform will help ensure children get the best possible start in life says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.“Social obligations will ensure dependent children of beneficiaries access and benefit from vital education and health services,” says Mrs Bennett.“These services are particularly important for vulnerable children as many currently miss out; we have an opportunity to address this through reforms.”“These obligations are reasonable and achievable and they reflect the expectations most New Zealanders have of parents, this is a positive move for vulnerable families.”Around 125,000 beneficiary parents support more than 220,000 children.Social obligations require all beneficiary parents to ensure their children:
- attend 15 hours a week Early Childhood Education (ECE) from age 3
- attend school from age five or six
- enrol with a General Practitioner
- complete core WellChild/Tamariki Ora checksThese social obligations are consistent with the Government’s Key Result Areas, the White Paper on Vulnerable Children, manifesto commitments and the confidence and supply agreement with the ACT party.“We are mindful there may be barriers like geographical location or capacity so parents will need to make reasonable steps to achieve these goals.”Our intention is to work with and support parents to comply in the best interests of children and if they struggle to comply for any reason they could be referred to specific support services to get further help.“But where barriers do not exist and parents don’t meet these obligations, graduated sanctions could apply,” says Mrs Bennett.The graduated sanction process will see parents receive three reminder opportunities to comply before a maximum 50 per cent financial sanction applies.“We have made it easy to re-comply, with plenty of opportunities and in the interests of the child, have capped the sanction at 50 percent.”
We see these "social obligations" as a sensible and pragmatic move by Paula Bennett. Welfare payments comprise a significant portion of Crown expenditure. However a small and growing number of people see them as their right, even though some of them have never worked or paid tax.
We say this, because with "rights", even perceived ones come responsibilities. By putting in place a set of child-centred responsibilities, the Government is sending a signal to beneficiaries that the welfare of their children is vital. The Government has chosen a set of measures intended to ensure that children get the best start in life.
Sure; there is a punitive aspect to these changes. But no beneficiary is going to have their benefit cut immediately, with a three-reminders scale being incorporated. Clearly, parents should get the message loud and clear by the time they receive a first or second warning.