Uncertainty over early childhood spaces
The Nelson and Tasman Kindergarten Association is unsure if the region can handle all beneficiaries' children attending 15 hours a week of early childhood education.
Parents face having their benefits slashed in half if they do not send their children to early childhood centres and enrol them with a doctor under a government initiative coming into effect in July next year.
Association chief executive Wendy Logan said it was looking at how its 19 early childhood centres would be affected by the move, which is costing $1.4 million to administer.
"It's quite a lot, 15 hours a week, especially for a 3-year-old, but I think there's space left across the region. It's very early on so we don't know the impact yet."
Golden Kids, an early childhood centre in Takaka, said it had a two-year waiting list for children to attend. It takes children from three months up to 5 years old and is among only a few early childhood centres in the town.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett announced the new "social obligations" which she said would give children a better start in life.
About 125,000 beneficiary parents support more than 220,000 children and Ms Bennett said the social obligations were "reasonable and achievable".
Parents already face losing 50 per cent of their main benefit from next month if they do not meet "work obligations" such as failing to attend a job interview.
From next July all beneficiary parents must ensure their children: Attend 15 hours a week early childhood education from age 3. Attend school from age 5 or 6. Enrol with a general practitioner. Complete core WellChild/Tamariki Ora checks.
If they do not, a "graduated sanction process" will allow three warnings before they face a cut of up to 50 per cent.
Parents would get help if they were seen as high risk or were vulnerable or had complex needs.
Last week, Ms Bennett announced she will stop payments to beneficiaries subject to arrest warrants.
They would also be penalised if they refused to apply for drug-tested jobs.
National's welfare reforms are expected to save up to $1 billion over four years but involve controversial proposals such as financial assistance for contraception.
Welfare payments cost around $7.6b each year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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