‘Solo mum sanction’ solution?

The Government are trying to solve a tricky problem, the ‘solo mum sanction’. The current way of trying to force solo mothers to name the father to avoid financial penalty is far from ideal, but the proposed solution may have problems too.

RNZ: Ending solo mum sanction could cost govt $25m a year

Scrapping a sanction against some solo mums will cost more than $100 million over four years and could result in fewer parents paying child support, ministry officials say.

Single parents who refuse to identify the other parent have $22 deducted from their benefit every week per child. After 13 weeks, another $6 per family is docked.

The policy was introduced in 1990 to ensure fathers paid child support.

The Labour-led government last year confirmed it would repeal the penalty, saying there was no evidence it worked.

A Ministry of Social Development report – obtained under the Official Information Act – said the government would pay out at least $25 million more a year as a result of ditching the sanction.

Officials said they could not predict how people might respond, but warned the cost could balloon, “potentially considerably”, if people were then incentivised to rip off the system.

For example, mothers might choose not to name the father so he could avoid paying child support to the Crown and could instead pay her privately under the table.

Acting Minister of Social Development Peeni Henare said there was no evidence to suggest that might happen.

Has anyone tried to find out if there is any evidence? Has the Ministry of Social Development got any evidence that there won’t be negative consequences or that costs won’t balloon?

Absence of evidence is not a good basis for policy change.

Fathers who don’t take financial or other responsibility for their children is possibly a significant social issue in New Zealand – I say ‘possibly’ because I don’t have evidence that it is.

Henare:

“This was a punitive measure… one that has actually proven to have no merit.”

Where is the proof it had no merit? Did it not encourage any fathers at all to be more involved in the support of their children?

He said the current penalty unfairly punished thousands of children in low-income families.

Is it unfair on children to allow their fathers to have nothing to do with their support? Is it unfair on tax payers to allow solo mothers to exclude fathers from the lives of their children?

It is certainly tough on a mother who wants to keep an arsehole father away from her family, but should the State just pick up the tab, no questions asked?

The current sanction system is far from ideal, but is there any evidence the proposed alternative will be better for children?