Welfare group human rights risk

23:41, Mar 08 2011

The Government risks breaching beneficiaries human rights if it goes ahead with some of the Welfare Working Group's recommendations, Children's Commissioner John Angus says.

The working group released its final report two weeks and ago and the Government is now considering the 43 recommendations aimed at getting people off benefits and into work.

Angus told Parliament's social services select committee that he was concerned about some aspects of the group's work, including requiring mothers on a benefit who have another child to look for work when the baby in 14 weeks.

The Government has signalled it was unlikely to adopt that recommendation.

Angus said proposals to use the benefit system to improve parenting were also fraught with difficulties.

"For example there are a whole lot of reasons why children truant from school, some to do with children, some to do with their family and some to do with the school ... so a whole lot of things impact on that, yet there are some suggestions in the working group's report that somehow the benefit system, and at the end of the day financial sanctions, should be used to ensure that children get to school."

That raised human rights issues about not discriminating against someone because of their source of income, he said.

"I think there's an argument that we would be discriminating against beneficiaries by applying these things to them when parents whose children who truant from school who aren't on a benefit don't have those sorts of impositions."

The Commissioner's office was also working on a report into the impact of being in early childhood education on children under two.

It was due to be released later this month. Angus said looking at whether being in care was good or bad for a child was too simplistic a view.

The major risks were in the first 12 months of life but their report found there were ways to mitigate them, he said.