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Children affected by benefit sanctions remain invisible

Child Poverty Action Group says the welfare of children affected by the government's benefit sanctions remains a deep concern.  

In its second report on sanctions, Benefit Sanctions: Children not seen - not heard, CPAG calls for transparent monitoring of benefit sanctions and their impact on children.

Child Poverty Action Group says the welfare of children affected by the government's benefit sanctions remains a deep concern.  

In its second policy monitoring report on benefit sanctions, CPAG says the Ministry of Social Development has provided only minimal information about benefit sanctions on clients with children, in response to an Official Information Act request.  The information does not include the number of children affected by benefit sanctions on parents, or how long the sanctions last.

Spokesperson Associate Professor Michael O'Brien said, "The government has argued that welfare reform is 'good for children' but children's needs are invisible in this picture.  The critical question has to be the number of children affected by benefit sanctions and for how long.  When families spend time on a very reduced income, with benefits cut by half, it inevitably has major consequences for children."

CPAG is calling for transparent monitoring of benefit sanctions, particularly for sole parents, as recommended by the Welfare Working Group.  Michael O'Brien said, "We need more robust and transparent information than that provided by Ministerial press releases. The government should monitor the effect of sanctions on children, and also whether people are moving off and on benefits within a short space of time.   It is important to assess whether the system is creating additional hardship by churning people in and out of the benefit system."  

 CPAG calls on the Ministry of Social Development to publish regular data on:

  • the number of sanctions imposed by grade of sanction and benefit type;
  • the reason the sanction has been imposed;
  • the number of clients with children who have had their benefits suspended or cancelled;
  • how many children are affected by these suspensions and cancellations;
  • the length of time the suspension/cancellation was active (and the number of children affected);
  • a breakdown of these figures by age-group of the child, and region.
  • how many beneficiaries with children have left a benefit to go into work;
  • how many beneficiaries with children have moved back onto a benefit within 6 and 12 month

    This would help the public to assess the effect of sanctions on children and the extent of churn in the welfare system, which also impacts on children.