The Ministry for Women interviewed 40 mothers in Whāngarei, South Auckland and Gisborne, to hear in their own words, their experiences of being on a benefit and of the social services they accessed both during pregnancy and with young children. These interviews focused on nutrition, stress levels, parenting skills and the physical environment.
Almost unanimously, these mothers told us that the benefit system is complex and changes to their benefit entitlements are hard to understand. Many said they did not know or understand what they were entitled to. They wanted clear and transparent decisions over entitlements and abatement rates that supported them and their children.
The mothers told us they want to work and for it to be good work. Having a child, they said, made them want to change their lives. Being a mother is a strong incentive to get involved in work, education or training to provide for their family, and to be a role model for their children. Having a family, they said, changed their aspirations and made them open to opportunity.
The other three key themes that emerged were:
- Mothers struggled financially which was a constant source of stress.
- Mothers’ experiences with government services were often difficult and challenging.
- Mothers dealt with physical and/or mental health concerns.
The most sustainable way to improve these mothers’ lives, and the lives of their children, is to support them fully while they are on a benefit and ensure they are getting the benefit they are entitled to receive. Once they are ready, support them into training and work with long-term prospects for good pay and employment.
Please note: a literature review, associated with this publication, can be accessed here