Invest in mothers "and they will do the rest", a new report from the Ministry of Women has found.
Having a child motivated mothers to want to change their lives - to get a good job and to up-skill - according to the Something's Got to Change report, based on 40 interviews with mothers in training.
- Sanctions motivate beneficiaries to get jobs - Simon Bridges
- New Zealand ranks among top ten nations on gender equality - report
- Government releases gender pay guidelines for public sector
The most sustainable way to improve the lives of the mothers and 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," the report says.
The report's four key findings are:
- Mothers universally wanted to make a better life for their children.
- Mothers struggled financially which was a constant source of stress.
- Mothers dealt with physical and/or mental health concerns.
- Mothers' experience with government services were often difficult and challenging.
Another issue faced by the mothers was the cost of childcare. Extending the 20 hours' free early childhood education to under-threes would help mothers into education or employment, the report found.
The benefit system was complicated and confusing, and abatement levels put them off seeking work. But they did want work, "and for it to be good work".
They said having a child made them want to change their lives, and is an incentive to get into work or training and be a role model for their children.
All 40 of the women interviewed were in debt. One woman had moved into a rat and cockroach-infested Housing NZ home, and was in debt to Housing NZ for the cost of rat eradication.
Mothers often chose to go without food as the cost of food was the most discretionary item in their budget.
"It is not only kind to support single mums, who're doing their best to raise their children, it also makes sense for the Government to make it easier for these women to get the support they need to make a good go of their lives," Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter said.
"Investing in mothers, especially when they are the only adult and income earners within families, is how we address child poverty.
"Improving the economic independence of these women brings benefits to them, their families and broader society."