Current systems failing single parents - advocate

Source: 1News

The conditions and stigma faced by single parents in New Zealand need to change, and society needs to listen to those parents for the solutions, according to an advocate.

Tania Domett, research director at Project Gender, says single parents make up 20% of families in Aotearoa "and they're really, really doing it tough".

Project Gender describes itself on its website as "a social change agency creating positive impact through insights research, breakthrough campaigns and real-world solutions". They are currently surveying single parents to better understand the lives of low-income, single-parent families in New Zealand.

"You just think about how two-parent households are already under pressure," Domett told Breakfast on Tuesday.

"So think about when it's just you, carrying all of that, on your own, on a single income, and it's really difficult for single parents to be in paid employment for this reason alone unless you've got a very understanding boss.

"There are so many single parents out there who can't be in full time work because they don't have anyone at home who's sharing in the care of the kids."

Domett says that, on top of financial difficulties, the stigma single parents still face is another serious issue.

She said that "single mums, and they are mostly single mums, are essentially being treated like naughty girls who have got into trouble and just should be grateful for every scrap that they receive" - adding that the way forward is to hear their experiences first-hand.

"They're the experts of their own lives, they know what's best, frankly they're experts in the system, and they can tell us where change needs to happen first and how.

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"I ran a focus group in Palmerston North last week and one of the mums was talking about how her case worker had told her it wasn't appropriate to bring her four-year-old daughter to the meeting, and then growled at her little girl, saying 'you've got to get better at going to day care because mum has to go to work' ".

"But it's when those different aspects of the system come together, that's when we really see the dysfunction.

"One woman said she feels like a pinball in a machine, getting flipped from one agency to another."

Project Gender's survey of single parents aims to "look at the opportunities for systemic change to ensure greater equity for low income, single parent households".

The survey closes on August 22.