20 Mar 2013

Childcare requirements in welfare bill changed

9:15 pm on 20 March 2013

Beneficiaries would be allowed to send their young children to a wider range of early childhood services and avoid having their benefits cut under changes made by a parliamentary select committee.

The social services committee has made several changes to legislation bringing in the Government's second round of welfare reforms.

The Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill passed its first reading last September.

Previously under the bill, beneficiaries would have been forced to enrol their three- and four-year-olds at preschool, kindergarten or playcentre for a minimum of 15 hours a week.

Welfare benefits would have been docked if they kept their children at home.

However, committee chairperson Sam Lotu-Iiga says there were concerns some beneficiaries would not be able to find, or afford, a place in an early childhood centre.

He says home-based and te kura care will now be included, and beneficiaries will no longer have to send their children to care for the full 15 hours a week.