CPAG Submission on the Social Security Re-write Bill (June 2016)

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) submitted recommending the removal of Sections 176, 177, 178 from the Social Security Legislation Rewrite Bill. These sections impose a weekly sanction of $22 or more, per child, on beneficiary sole mothers who have not identified the father of their child, pushing already struggling families into greater hardship. Currently there are approximately 17,000 children in Aotearoa New Zealand affected by this sanction. Of the 13,616 parents,13,298 are women, and only 318 are men. 52.8% are Māori. This policy clearly impacts, disproportionately and severely, women and Māori.

In addition, women who try to have the sanction lifted are forced to share intimate details of their lives, including histories of violence and abuse, to Work and Income case managers in open plan offices, and then must have these stories verified by a lawyer.

CPAG says that the sanctions are a "punishment for children".

Since the Government introduced the benefit sanctions in 2010, New Zealand has seen its worst-off families falling further and further behind in terms of income equality. Government has made very clear its intention to foreground ‘working’ and being ‘off benefit’ as a means to eliminate poverty. However, with rule changes for beneficiaries, core benefits have shifted away from being child-focused entitlements for parents unable to earn a living, to being payments that are conditional on recipients meeting certain ‘social expectations’. To date there has not been any notable improvement in the situation for the most vulnerable children. The recent Household Incomes Report shows that more than 80,000 children are living in conditions of severe deprivation.

Punishing families by removing portions of their weekly welfare payments is not the way to assist our most vulnerable. Because of a desperate lack of data, there is no way of showing whether all families moved ‘off benefit’ are in better situations and CPAG estimates that there could be more than 100,000 children negatively affected by benefit sanctions.

Read the full submission here: