Existing eligibility rules for welfare support reflect an outdated view of New Zealand families. Families, and arrangements for the care of children, are more diverse and fluid than in the past. Most children live in two-parent households, but it is now common for children to spend some part of their childhood in a sole parent family.
In many cases, sole parenthood means reliance on a benefit and is associated with a high risk of poverty. For many families, two (or sometimes three or more) jobs are need to provide an adequate income. However, income support is still based on a one-earner model where one income was enough for a family. This means when partnered people are affected by job loss, they will often not qualify for any income support from main benefits if their partner is in paid work (even on the minimum wage) because of the joint income test and the tight targeting of payments. Hence, the low number of couples on main benefits and the growing number of working poor.
The Government must modernise the eligibility rules to reflect this changing nature of families and society. Many other rules warrant further consideration that we could not give in the time available.