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'Low trust' rules treat beneficiaries as 2nd class citizens

Child Poverty Action Group spokesperson Associate Professor Mike O'Brien says the latest measures to punish welfare fraudsters demonizes all beneficiaries and serves only to add further stigma to individuals and families who require government support.

Child Poverty Action Group spokesperson Associate Professor Mike O'Brien says the latest measures to punish welfare fraudsters demonizes all beneficiaries and serves only to add further stigma to individuals and families who require government support.

"This latest measure is worrying for us, particularly when we think about the effects on children and the unfairness to beneficiaries. Their children by association are once more treated as second class citizens."

Particularly concerning was the onus on people receiving benefits accused of benefit fraud to prove otherwise when 84 per cent of cases investigated by the Social Development Ministry last year failed to lead to any prosecution.

Further unsettling is that partners of people on benefits found to have committed 'welfare fraud 'can now be held criminally responsible implying they are also complicit. "While it is unjust that the DPB recipient is landed with entire repayment of her benefit, and often a prison term, when so called relationship fraud is alleged, there are real dangers, for example, in violent relationships of a heavy handed approach. This new measure comes across as intimidation, giving a message to all beneficiaries that they can expect draconian consequences, much worse than that applied to other members of society who break the law. "

"The government needs to think very carefully about the culture and values we are creating within our communities particularly when vulnerable children are being placed further at risk," says Assoc. Prof O'Brien.

He says it was too easy for administrative blunders and finger pointing to set in train a series of events which could have devastating effects for families already under increasingly financial strain.

CPAG advocated the need for child centred policies and says these new measures are draconian and serve only to place further stress to families already vulnerable.