Letter to Virginia Larson
Journalist and Editor
North and South
I’m feeling pretty disappointed with you having just picked up the October North and South magazine from my local dairy and seen your editorial titled Benefit Blues, where you have bought into the dog whistle attack on DPB mums led by Paula Bennett a month or so ago.
You seem to believe that there’s many women out there who choose to be on the DPB, who are intent on rorting the system and are on a pretty good wicket. And you’ve got a few anecdotes from people you know (middle class people) who report that “people on benefits” feel a sense of entitlement.
I wonder Virginia, how many women you actually know who are on the DPB? And I wonder if you’ve ever (or when was the last time) you actually sought some out and talked to them directly?
In my town, Dunedin, there’s a teen parenting course that’s been run by the Salvation Army for a number of years. It’s not a huge programme, in the last 2 years 26 young women have gone through this course, 7 have moved into employment, 6 into further study with 13 NCEA certificates awarded.
Their ages range from around 16 to early 20s. They join the course either by self-referral or referral from one of their support agencies. The course provides them with the opportunity to work towards their NCEA level 1 & 2, National Certificates in Computing, Childcare & Employment Skills, while also having their children close by under trained supervision.
It’s been funded by the Tertiary Education Commission, and that funding has now been axed. It’s the only teen parenting course of its type in Dunedin and it concentrates really hard on building literacy and numeracy skills, confidence, some basic parenting and nutrition skills amongst a group of young women who generally are withdrawn, lonely, isolated and have left school because they didn’t fit in, got pregnant, or were kicked out.
These girls are generally on the DPB. They are NOT getting $1000 a week, or even $700 as you claim so many women on the DPB are. They’re just getting by.
And I heard first hand their stories of how important this course has been to them. And the transformations they’ve gone through. Many of them are now thinking about what they’ll do next and daring to dream about an independent life for themselves.
They talked about (and I saw) their increased confidence, support from their peers, friendship and assistance with their children’s socialisation.
They now all have a routine, goals of future study and a sense of pride that they are no longer statistics, no longer “ just another young mum, sitting at home all day”, which has made their interactions in society a lot more positive.
Educated parents equal educated children. These young women are being supported to change their own and their children’s lives by positive and passionate staff.
So don’t give me your middle class righteousness Virginia, written from the viewpoint of a comfortable existence, relying on anecdotes from your righteous, indignant mates. Go out and front up to some of these women and walk in their shoes for an hour or so and imagine what it’s like.
Like the Training Incentive Allowance, teen parenting courses have been an essential step in these young women making the transition to lives where they can become better educated and contribute.
This isn’t about being a bleeding heart liberal, it’s about what real funding can do to change real people’s lives. For the better.
Update: Have sent this letter to Virginia. Hope she responds