No questions asked (no sanctions) welfare

One of just three changes as a result of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group report is contentious – it will remove (next year) a sanction (reduction in sole parent benefit) for mothers who don’t name the father of their child or children:

The Government will scrap the discriminatory sanction that cuts income to women and their children if the name of the child’s father is not declared to the Government.

Removing the section 192 sanction will cost $113.4 million over 4 years and will come into effect on 1 April 2020.

The Green Party has wanted a range of sanctions and requirements for getting benefits removed for some time. It was championed by Metiria Turei as she crashed and burned her political career just before the 2017 election, and her successor as Green co-leader, Marama Davidson, has also promoted much higher benefits with no questions asked.

It doesn’t actually start today, it starts in April 2020.

National imposed the sanctions and oppose their removal. Stuff: Government to scrap benefit sanction for solo mums, among welfare changes

National’s spokeswoman for social development, Louise Upston, said her party disagreed with the bulk of the report, “which would see fewer obligations imposed on beneficiaries and fewer incentives to get back into work”.

“Increasing the abatement threshold for people on benefits means people can keep more of what they earn. This is a welcome incentive to encourage more people into work.

“National believes that New Zealanders should be given a hand up, not a hand out and those who can work, should.”

ACT leader David Seymour…

…said removing sanctions on women who don’t name the father of their child is a complete reversal of position for Labour.

“In 2004, Social Development Minister Steve Maharey said: ‘It is a rort, and I have said time and time again in this Parliament that fathers must front up to their obligations, and we will make sure they do … It is not unreasonable to penalise financially those who do not.’

“This change will mean taxpayers will assume greater responsibility for supporting children, rather than their fathers.

Auckland Action Against Poverty…

…said it was glad to see the Government “finally taking action to stop punishing sole parents and children”.

It urged the Government to also ensure that every woman who had been penalised by the sanction received back pay, however the Minister told media this would not happen.

From the WEAG report:

The current benefit system is based on a one of conditionality and sanctions. We heard overwhelmingly through our consultation that such a system diminishes trust, causes anger and resentment, and contributes to toxic levels of stress. The application of obligations and sanctions in New Zealand (and elsewhere) is problematic.

The empirical literature provides no single, overarching answer to whether obligations and sanctions in welfare systems bring about the desired forms of behavioural change, such as movement into paid work or whether the positive effects of obligations outweigh the negative (Watts & Fitzpatrick, 2018: 111).

Research does indicate that obligations and sanctions can be costly to administer and comply with and have many harmful unintended consequences that compound social harm and disconnectedness (for example, movement in and out of insecure jobs, interspersed with periods of unemployment; disengagement from the social security system; increased poverty; increased crime to survive; worsened ill-health and impairments) (Economic and Social Research Council, 2018; Watts & Fitzpatrick 2018; Butterworth et al, 2006; Kiely & Butterworth, 2013; Davis, 2018). There is even less evidence that non-work-related obligations and associated sanctions achieve the stated aims of intended behavioural modification.

A high number of obligation failures15 are disputed (46%) and almost all (98%) of these disputes are upheld with the failure being overturned.

Require mutuality of expectations and responsibilities

The current obligations and sanctions regime must be immediately reformed into a system of mutual expectations and responsibilities that are applied according to the circumstances of the individual. They must be applied in a way that meets the values of the system, with robust checks and balances to mitigate potential negative impacts on individuals and their families and whānau.

Removing the father naming sanction makes it easier for fathers to avoid responsibility.

The report recommended a range of obligations and sanctions be removed.

  • the requirement to complete specific activities before a benefit is granted (pre-benefit activities)
  • the sanction where benefit payments stop if people have a warrant out for their arrest, and continue data matching with the Ministry of Justice and take a proactive supportive approach to contacting these people
  • social obligations that require people receiving a benefit to take all reasonable steps to have their children enrolled with a medical practice, be up to date with their Wellchild/Tamariki Ora checks and be attending early childhood education or school
  • pre-employment drug testing and provide specialised support for people with substance use disorders
  • the mandatory work ability assessment for people with health conditions or a disability and link workability assessments to return to work plans
  • the requirement to reapply for a benefit every 52 weeks – MSD is expected to provide full and correct entitlements through regular reviews (at least annually)
  • work obligations when an additional child is included in a benefit (the subsequent child rule)
  • the sanction on not naming another parent (was section 70A in the Social Security Act 1964 and is now section 192 of the Social Security Act 2018).

Only the last of those is being being removed by the Government, so most sanctions will remain.

The cost of removing the s192 parent naming sanction is estimated to cost $113.4 million over 4 years, which is $28.35 million annually.

“Around 24,000 children will be significantly better off as a result of this change, with many sole parents’ incomes increasing by an average of $34 a week,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

That’s a lot of children with unnamed fathers.

Doing some calculations the budget suggests about 16,000 solo mothers will have an income (benefit) increase, that’s a lot who don’t name fathers – it’s nearly a quarter of the total of about 60,000 receiving Sole Parent Support  (some of those will be fathers).

Why don’t mothers name fathers?

Some will genuinely not know who the father is, or will be uncertain. And some mothers will have legitimate reasons for having nothing to do with fathers.

In other cases men named as fathers may deny they are the parent.

And there must be some arrangements of silence of convenience, where the mother doesn’t name the father so he doesn’t have to pay maintenance, but under the table support arrangements are made.

$28.35 million annually is not a lot in the whole scheme of social welfare, which has a current  annual budget of $30.6 billion.

This is a small win for the Greens, but when the sanction is removed many children and low income families will be better off, which generally is a good thing.

It may cost a bit more as more solo mothers are likely to choose to not name the fathers, which is likely to reduce the number fathers paying maintenance, but this is likely to be not substantial.

Leave a comment

31 Comments

  1. Corky

     /  4th May 2019

    ”The current benefit system is based on a one of conditionality and sanctions. We heard overwhelmingly through our consultation that such a system diminishes trust, causes anger and resentment, and contributes to toxic levels of stress.”

    Only people who have never travelled – people divorced from reality, either because of intellectual deficiency or political philosophy, could write the above

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  4th May 2019

      We heard the same ‘problems’ when a capital gains tax was mooted-“system diminishes trust, causes anger and resentment, and contributes to toxic levels of stress.”

      A lot of that is just ‘dealing with the government’- as they require heavily bureaucratic systems- largely to be fair to all and not be arbitrary ( which can creep in still).

      Reply
  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  4th May 2019

    Breed and Feed on welfare – the universal ultimate colonial ruin.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  4th May 2019

      peter jacksons Weta gets more government assistance per year than Radio NZ – we can see it its a colonial ruin cant we.
      Student fees 1 year free – ruin
      Free hospital care – ruin.
      Michael Hill government sponsored Golf – ruin

      Silly boy . Get a grip on real world.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  4th May 2019

        Peter Jackson EARNS money for NZ.

        That’s an investment, not a handout.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  4th May 2019

          Peter Jackson EARNS money for NZ.?

          Do you see his last film…Mortal Engines. neither did almost every else.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  4th May 2019

            No director has 100% success, you must know that.

            Have you heard of the Lord of the Rings ? I didn’t see those, but a lot of other people did.

            Heavenly Creatures was a huge success.

            So was The Hobbit.

            Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  4th May 2019

        Never fear, Duker, I know the real world is full of socialists in the taxpayers’ trough. And every time we get a Labour Government a whole new family of piglets is invited.

        Reply
  3. NOEL

     /  4th May 2019

    16,000 solo mothers not reporting the father who is contributing nothing.
    Bet that is welcomed by those fathers trying to meet IRD payments?

    Reply
  4. David

     /  4th May 2019

    Watch for the explosion of mums not naming the dads now the incentive is in place, the problem these women could have is 3 years down the track when they go and get a job they wont be getting as much support as they are entitled to from dad…they cant just go and name him because she would have been lying to welfare for all those years.

    Reply
  5. David

     /  4th May 2019

    I take issue with the cost to the crown, its not just the extra 28 bucks a week its the incalculable amount of revenue not coming in from Dads who would be paying child support. A friend of mine pays 1500 a month and I have heard of higher amounts.

    Reply
    • NOEL

       /  4th May 2019

      The more you earn the more you pay IRD . Someone’s got to provide when fathers aren’t named.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  4th May 2019

        David, I agree…except for you calling them ‘Dads’ when some are just sperm donors.

        Reply
  6. Government response to welfare expert advisory group ‘more rhetoric than action’ – Poverty group

    https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/388427/government-response-to-welfare-expert-advisory-group-more-rhetoric-than-action-poverty-group

    A fair point I think.

    Auckland Action Against Poverty coordinator Ricardo Menendez-March said the government should be moving urgently to remove the sanction on solo parents who do not identify the other parent – something Labour committed to doing during the 2017 election campaign.

    “For us to have to wait for most of the term for a decision and now pretty much until the end of the term for it to come into place is disappointing. We think the government is not acting with enough urgency on poverty.”

    Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said the government was on the right track, but acknowledged that struggling families had been waiting a long time for change.

    “I know that for families it’s far too late for too many families. I know that there are children who have missed out on things, on living with dignity for over 30 years of successive governments not having a good enough system. I know this is urgent. Greens are clear this is urgent. We want to work with our partners to fix this.”

    Even Davidson acknowledges not enough is being done.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  4th May 2019

      In the very brief flash in a video clip on 1new last night, Marama was smiling but looked rather uncomfortable, standing among the line up of supporting pollies when Carmel was at the podium announcing the change. This is so far short of what she has been constantly arguing for it must be a huge let down for her & her supporters.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  4th May 2019

        Confidence and supply parties are like that. The tail doesnt wag the coalition( lab-NZF) dog.
        Im sure your concern trolling makes no difference to them either

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  4th May 2019

          Probably doesn’t. Yours makes none to me.

          And I’m not concerned one way or the other, so your projecting your thinking on to mine is a bit of a waste of time.

          I’m not politically tribal & I’m just posting on what I think from what I see.

          None of our political parties seem to me to have much intellectual grunt behind them & such scraps of party political philosophie as can be glimpsed from governments’ muddled collections of goodies, favours & policies seem destined to forever give us a collection of incoherent & uncoordinated tidbits that haven’t been properly worked through & whose effectiveness or otherwise is difficult to measure.

          I voted for MMP, & I didn’t like the lurches from to left & right effective one party dictatorships that FFP featured.

          But I somewhat airliy thought we’d be getting a higher professional class of practical Ministers & politicians than our system seems to be delivering.

          And I didn’t foresee that a gutted, constantly stuffed-about & restructured, downsized, quasi-corporatised Public Service would struggle to make Ministers accountable & thus effective.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  4th May 2019

            *FPP

            Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  4th May 2019

            Why would anyone with intellectual grunt get into NZ politics today?

            Far better to run your own business, profit from that and spend your own money as you want.

            Politics is full of people who can’t do that.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  4th May 2019

              Because if they don’t, loony lefties will take over the organs of government, totally destroy businesses, nationalise the ruins of what wreckage of a business you now find yourself in charge of, stop you from exporting your hard-earned gains offshore – that sort of thing?

              You know, you keep warning us about it.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  4th May 2019

              Yes but Key.

            • Gezza

               /  4th May 2019

              Wot?

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  4th May 2019

              All of the above. Showed that only pragmatism survives, NZ was brought up socialist and is still in nappies, did what was possible and got abused for it, had to deal with the rampant idiot lefty media, knew when to bugger off and who would be silly enough to follow him?

          • Gezza

             /  4th May 2019

            Also, Duker, remember that the Greens went hell for leather to pull votes from disgruntled left wing Labouriites prior to the election, until Metiria self-destructed in an absolutely bizarre act of hubris & naivety, & Labour manouevred an otherwise unremarkable young sheila who became an instant celebrity & female journo media darling into their leader’s position.

            Jacinda wisely, & I thought pointedly, sat it out & said virtually nothing while Metiria went down in flames.

            Offering a few token slots to the Greens afterwards in what seem to me to be policy areas that Labour has some sympathy for (or at least some of their several voting blocs wanted), but that were likely to be contentious & potentially electorally unpopular, has always had me wondering if they took a calculated decision that if the shit hit the fan for any of them, the party intelligentsia figured they could let the Greens carry the can at the ballot box.

            And adjust their policy sights independently, noting what to avoid next time?

            Reply
  7. NOEL

     /  4th May 2019

    First indication was the promise of reduced Doctors fees for ALL Superanuates.
    Reduced to those with a Community Card. And no response from Grey Power?

    Have a working group and you can say you “consultated” then cherry pick the recommendations.

    We did listen, they can say with heads held high.

    Clever marketing gimmick.

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  4th May 2019

      The budget is to be delivered on the May 30th. You talk of clever marketing. I reckon the budget will be the ultimate PR exercise. I hope it is…the alternative is Labour will deliver and spend up large.

      Reply
    • Gezza

       /  4th May 2019

      Political reality (cost, & forseeable adverse consequences = more likely cost) seems to be smacking Labour in the face every time one of the werkinggruppen produces the final results of its earnest labours.

      It’s obviousy very easy to produce a wish list of dozens of recommendations after talking to all the special interest groups.

      When you don’t have to cost it, & you can walk away, pleased & solemn-faced, at the end of your junket, with your generous fees in the bank, knowing you will never be responsible for somehow finding the money & implementing your recommendations – that’s someone else’s problem.

      Reply
    • Duker

       /  4th May 2019

      “https://www.labour.org.nz/gp_fees
      Those community service card holders were mentioned

      Reply
  8. John Whyte

     /  5th May 2019

    “Some will genuinely not know who the father is, or will be uncertain. And some mothers will have legitimate reasons for having nothing to do with fathers.

    In other cases men named as fathers may deny they are the parent.”

    Pete, your comment is misinformed. If the mother makes an affidavit saying she is unaware of who the father is, there are no sactions.
    Likewise for uncertain.
    Again if they have a reason for not wanting contact, (such as abuse issues) they can state that to winz and there is no penalty.

    In the case where there is no paternal name on the birth certificate due to a dispute, again by stating this to winz there is no sanction.

    The issue is this – in all other cases in NZ child support is not income. It isn’t taxed.
    However if you are on a benefit the govt will collect the child support from the father but not pay it to the mother. So there is a huge incentive for both parties to create an off the books arrangement. Which means it’s not binding and frequently is broken by the parties involved.

    Reply
  1. No questions asked (no sanctions) welfare — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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