National | Māori

Bias in govt agencies a barrier to Māori single mums

The Minister for Women says Māori solo mums experience a number of barriers to returning to work including unconscious bias treatment by government agencies.

Julie Anne Genter says a more culturally aware approach is needed by staff to address the issue.

Genter says the way Māori single mothers are treated by agency staff is a hurdle to them entering the workforce or training.

“There's probably unconscious bias, institutional racism and there are opportunities to really provide that culturally aware support and information that is going to best benefit Māori solo mums to deal with the challenges that they're facing and to get into work or training if that's what is best for them,” she says.

According to a new report on barriers single mothers face to work, navigating the benefit system is difficult.

“The issues that are happening are across the board,” says Solomon Group training provider CEO, Jenny Solomon, “All solo mums- and just the complexities we put into our systems make it very hard for them to understand.”

Approximately half of the 40 low-income mothers from Whangārei, South Auckland and Gisborne interviewed in the report were Māori.

Genter says an overhaul of the government welfare system is needed.

“Discussing it closely with the ministers responsible- the Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni,” she says, “But also across government, the ministers who are responsible for Māori development and how we can work together to ensure that these women are supported to look after their children because that's going to be the best outcome for New Zealand as a whole.”

Other recommendations, including making it easier for solo mums to know what they're entitled to, will be considered by an MSD advisory group who will report back early next year.