United Future Party on Fathering - Election 2005

This is the response from United Future to questions put by the NZ Father and Child Society.
Click here to see the questions. (PDF, 95k)

Father & Child Society Election response 2005

1. What programmes would United Future promote in order to:

(a) Get more father involvement in schools and pre-schools?

United Future strongly endorses the involvement of a male role model in a child’s life. Its importance cannot be under-rated. As such, we support programmes that seek to include parental involvement in school and pre-school life. We consider that one barrier to this involvement is work, particularly as we see the rise of two income families.

In order to create a better work-life balance and so enable parents to participate in their children’s education, United Future will introduce income splitting for tax purposes for families. This plan recognises the important choice that many families make to have one partner to stay at home with their children and so engage with the school. Parents may also alternate between periods of paid work and raising children.

(b) Reduce the suicide rate, particularly for males?

During its first term United Future successfully lobbied the Government for funding to increase its focus from teenage suicide prevention measures to an all-age suicide prevention approach. This was in recognition of the fact that statistically males aged 20-24 were the most at-risk of suicide and programmes aimed at teenagers did not address the needs of this group. United Future will continue to advocate for increased funding for suicide prevention programmes and in recognition of the strong link between depression and suicide, for continued depression awareness and treatment initiatives.

(c) Promote male input into Government agencies and social services?

United Future believes it is important that both men and women have proper input into Government-run agencies and social services and support comprehensive consultation processes with communities when changing or evaluating services. United Future strongly supports EEO principles which encourage under-represented groups to be reflected in the staff of government organisations – and this includes men in professions such as social work and teaching.

2. What is United Future’s policy on:

(a) Joint parenting in- and outside of a relationship?

Where parents have separated and both want to have significant contact with their children, and where both are safe caregivers, United Future believes that it is in the child’s best interest that the law facilitates an arrangement that reflects the value to the child of having both parents playing a constant part in the child’s life. Arrangements should be made that are appropriate to the age and needs of each child. Those arrangements need to be flexible, changing as the needs of the child change.

Research has shown that to the extent that conflict between separating parents can be avoided and children protected from exposure to it, the opportunities for children to have a healthy development are enhanced. United Future believes that where relationship breakdown occurs, all parties to an application for a parenting order attend (separately) a seminar which provides information on how to minimise potentially negative effects of the separation on their children, communication strategies that promote the elimination of conflict with their former partner, effective communication techniques with their children and what can be expected from the family court process.

(b) Paid parental leave for fathers as a separate entitlement?

So far this term United Future has supported extensions to the Parental leave and Paid Parental Leave Schemes and will continue to support these initiatives. We are committed to ensuring that paid parental leave entitlements are applied in an equitable way and to furthering policies that enable parents to have a choice to spend time raising children in their early years.

3. Do you believe that:

(a) Publicly funded support services for parents should be equally accessible to both parents and encourage the involvement of fathers as well as mothers?

Yes. United Future has a vision for strong health, community and support services that support all parents in the vital role they perform. A key task in creating well-functioning support systems is ensuring a major attitudinal shift towards a positive culture of assistance. Both mothers and fathers equally need to be able to access support and training for parenting. This needs to be de-stigmatised and seen as a natural part of learning to be a parent.

United Future is committed to the goal of developing local Family Support Centres in order that both parents access the range of services they need. These would act as a point of contact for all parents seeking advice and information and would house family support co-ordinators who provide support for families needing ongoing assistance.

(b) Family law and the family court adequately recognise violence by women to men and children?

United Future is committed to ensuring that both men and women are treated equitably by Government organisations and judicial bodies. We deplore violence against any person, regardless of whether the perpetrator is male or female and believe all offenders need to be strongly and swiftly punished. United Future is committed to strengthening support for the victims of crime, and violent crime in particular.

(c) Current legislation sufficiently protects men from false allegations?

The impact of false allegations on a person’s reputation, physical and emotional health can be huge. False allegations must therefore be treated with the utmost seriousness and United Future believes it is time to review whether the current provisions in the Crimes Act against making false allegations are being adequately administered.

(d) The current system of child support is fair?

United Future believes it is essential that Government policies encourage and ensure parents fulfil their responsibilities to their children. United Future believes that the current system of financial support by non-custodial parents does not accurately reflect the costs of raising a child. We would increase the minimum child support payment from the current $12.75 per week to better reflect these costs, thus ensuring that both parents take financial responsibility for children’s upbringing.

(e) Fathers who are obstructed from having a full relationship with their children should still have to pay child support?

As stated above, United Future believes that both parents need to take financial responsibility for their children’s upbringing. However, United Future believes that the difficulties experienced by fathers in Family Court proceedings need to be acknowledged and overcome, so that no father is obstructed from having a relationship with their children.

4. Should DNA paternity testing at birth be routinely available? Is it acceptable that paternity can be established by a court without use of DNA evidence?

United Future believes that there is still a great deal of work needed to be done to better serve the needs of both fathers, and mothers, in cases where paternity needs clarification.

We believe that the current law does not adequately protect fathers who wish to either prove or disprove paternity. And equally mothers who wish to do the same. DNA testing is now readily accessible and not unduly costly and consequently there should be no reason why DNA testing is not utilised more widely in cases where paternity is at issue. United Future is currently developing a Member’s Bill which would amend the law regarding paternity testing, so that the right balance between both partners’ interests, and the interests of children, is achieved.

5. What message would you have for young men today?

Young men need to think and act more responsibly in causal relationships to avoid the many complex issues that unplanned pregnancies bring. They also need to understand that while they can leave or divorce their partner or spouse, they should never apply this to their children.

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