Thursday, January 31, 2008

Phasing out the DPB

Not PC rightly pointed out that one of the negative consequences of the DPB is that there has been a rising incidence of children being raised by parents who didn't want them, and these children end up being a problem in themselves. Now many on the DPB DO want and love their kids, after all the DPB was intended to cover a number of unfortunate events, such as death of a spouse and separation - not to fund a lifestyle choice.
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So what could be done? It is easy to say withdraw the DPB, but we all know that wont happen, what is needed is for it to be phased out. Here are some simple steps that, dare i say it, a National government might consider if it really wants to address welfare:
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1. Freeze the number of children current DPB beneficiaries can claim the benefit for. In other words, if you had two children when you got on it, you can't get more money for a third child.
2. Prohibit claims for the DPB for beneficiaries who wont name the other parent.
3. Replace the DPB with the unemployment benefit when the youngest (eligible) child is at school age, so that the focus moves from domestic purposes to employment.
4. Establish a legal alimony framework to allow the other parent of the dependent child to be liable to share the cost of raising the child. This will mean every separation will see this legal obligation come into effect, which will be predefined unless the parents expressly contract out of it by mutual agreement. Parents cannot rely on the state to fill any gap, beyond the unemployment benefit. This legal framework would effectively end new claims for the DPB.
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These simple steps would have several effects. Firstly, it would replace state funded parenting with parent funded parenting. Parents would be paying for their kids, and would have to sacrifice part of their earnings to do this, even on low incomes, even on the unemployment benefit. Single parents would be treated as unemployed once the youngest child is at school, shifting the obligation towards finding employment/income. Finally, it would put a substantial new legal obligation upon both parents to share the costs of child rearing, regardless of domestic living arrangements.
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Meanwhile, you might save enough money to knock a few more percentage points off of income tax, this in itself would also help people afford to raise their children.
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I know this proposal is hardly that radical, and would mean the DPB is gone within five years. While it would help shrink the state, by far the biggest change would be it would destroy the incentive to have children you can't afford, and suddenly parents who get away with little (mostly men), would have to face the consequences of their breeding.
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However, much has been written about this by Lindsay Mitchell, who has done and said more on this issue than most. If the Nats do even some of what I've listed, I'll be astounded though.

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