Shades of I Daniel Blake

By   /   December 12, 2016  /   27 Comments

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So MSD have been forcing investigation staff to get at least one prosecution a month, often for the non-crime of ‘relationship fraud’. They have quotas to recover at least $30,000 in debt per month!

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So MSD have been forcing investigation staff to get at least one prosecution a month, often for the non-crime of ‘relationship fraud’.  They have quotas to recover at least $30,000 in debt per month!

Legions of women just barely surviving financially have been prosecuted, often sent to jail, even when they have had young children. Some have become suicidal, others have had their lives and those of their children ruined.

As AAP say clearly WINZ punitive approach to relationships is toxic and even lethal

“Many of the fraud cases AAAP deals with involve women being accused of not declaring a relationship in the nature of marriage.  Fraud investigators do not have the ability to distinguish between a relationship in the nature of marriage, and a relationship based on violence, abuse and threat. Ongoing fraud investigations punish beneficiaries and in many cases contribute to the ongoing trauma experienced by women.”

CPAG has written endlessly about this, as well there is  Kathryn’s story. Surely, good relationships should be encouraged and sole parents who try to repartner be free from persecution?

Being a sole parent is sheer hard work, lonely and totally undervalued.  While every conceivable support should be wrapped around our vulnerable young mothers who are bringing up children on their own, instead, society demonises them and denies them enough to live on.   Harmful policies, relic of the 19th century trap them in a miserable untenable depressing existence where neither they nor their children thrive.  The children disproportionately suffer third world diseases as the 2016 Child Poverty Monitor shows.  The schools they attend are also grossly under-supported.

Any whiff of sole parents getting any support, emotional or financial from anyone especially a ‘man’ is treated like a crime.

The absurdity is that even if the man has hardly enough money to support himself  let alone her and her children, she can be  deemed to be in ‘a relationship’ with him. MSD can determine when that starts and deny her the benefit, accuse her of fraud and demand full repayment even when a jail term is served.

Imagine the outcry if we did not have tax on a purely individual basis so that two people flatting together have to pay more tax on their incomes if the IRD determines they are ‘in a relationship’. Why do we not have an outcry for what we do in the welfare system?

Suppose a sole parent on $325 a week is deemed by WINZ to be in a relationship with her flat mate (after being dobbed in by nosey neighbours who think, horrors of horrors, she might be sleeping with him).  Say he is on the single rate of jobseekers ($210 per week). They are likely to be barely surviving but as a couple ‘living in the nature of marriage’ they would be entitled to only the married rate of benefit, which is about $140 a week less.

Moreover if either of them earn extra they can have only $80 between them before each of their married rate of benefit is reduced by 35% for an extra dollar earned.   So they are trapped in poverty.

Why are ‘married’ benefits lower? The logic is very flawed.  Married people are supposed to enjoy additional economies of scale.  Instead of encouraging this, essentially MSD says “We cannot have that, any advantage must be taken away!”

So how does the MSD justify its 19th century policy?  In the latest paper for the retirement policy review 2016 they say

“Couples living together in a married, civil union or de facto relationship are paid less than double the single rate because it is considered that they can take advantage of certain economies of scale that individuals in shared accommodation cannot. “

Here’s the best they can come up with.  They say a couple could

  • be able to enjoy lower accommodation costs than two single people
  • be able to have their personal household effects on one insurance policy whereas two single people who are sharing accommodation would be more likely to have separate insurance costs totalling a higher amount
  • share vehicle expenses, while two single people may be more likely to have their own individual transport and vehicle costs
  • generally share meals, while two single people sharing accommodation may not have merged their lives to that extent.”

Please, even by today’s low standards of policy making, surely a policy that entraps so many struggling sole parents is completely unacceptable?

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About the author

Co-director retirement policy and Research Centre, CPAG management committee

27 Comments

  1. saveNZ says:

    Spot on! One of the biggest injustices and feminist issues in this country are to single parents and their children.

    For some inexplicable reason single parents are denied the ability to have a normal relationship by the criminalisation of social comfort, based on stupid, weak and punitive evidence of incentivised WINZ thicko’s and their often abusive and manipulative ‘relationships’.

    Abusing the mostly women single parents by these subjective rules, is also abuse by the state of their vulnerable children.

    I just wish Sue Bradford would come back to parliament – if only to put though legislation to legally end this state abuse of 19th century moralism of mostly women and children.

  2. saveNZ says:

    And for the right wing trolls, quick question is a good use of taxpayers money to clog up the justice system, pay for legal aid lawyers, put someone in prison ($90k each year +) and their child into care (which is proven to be worse as a caregiver than abusive parents and probably costs more than prison), likely to end the person’s ability to get a decent job with a criminal record, stigmatises and traumatises their kids, wastes WINZ time, all in all waste’s $100,000’s of taxpayers money on each case, so that the state can make sure that the women is unable to get into a new relationship so that can actually exit the benefit????

    WTF????

  3. JR Murphy says:

    No wonder the family unit is being destroyed – I’m pleased I never got into another relationship after I was raped in 2002, I protected my girls who now left home and didn’t traumatise myself further.

    No wonder men only want sex from women on welfare or low incomes – what past 30 years of radicalised neo-liberal terrorist governments have done is appalling – and illegal according to law.

    Worst time of year for us human sewage rotting in the darklands of this neo-liberal shit hole – I can’t even get out of bed today and having to deal with repeated violent images of self-destruction. No point in living like this.

    • Andrea says:

      “No point in living like this.”

      It’s a tough time of year to seek for any sort of support, I know.

      Give it a go, though.

      Trying to be staunch about it – it can be dangerous, and holds you back.

      Even if it’s just window-shopping and imagining better times, or smiling at yourself in the mirror – whatever it takes to make the first wee wobbly step on the way to a better way of living.

      Go well.

  4. andrew says:

    Susan, solo mums represent a particularly intractable problem for western society.

    Male children born to solo mums are statistically far more likely to become gang members, attempt suicide or finish up in prison. Females are far more likely to become solo mums when their turn comes. Thus the cycle of failure continues.

    In NZ 40% of Maori are now born to solo mums. In the USA 74% of black Americans are born to solo mums! This factor alone goes a long way to explain their dysfunction.

    Social scientists now belatedly recognise that the decades long undermining of the status of marriage through changes in taxation, quickie divorces, de facto relationships and DPB have created, all with the best of intentions, a monster in our midst: Children need a consistent and caring father figure in their lives if they’re to grow up balanced and confident individuals.

    So how should government respond?

    What changes should be made to drive down the rate of solo parenting?

    Because no matter how much “wrap around support” we provide, kids still need a dad and the state is no father.

    • XRAY says:

      What about benefit bludgers who pay no tax whilst collecting tax payer funded rental subsidies on their negatively geared investment houses?

      Now there is vermin the state should be cracking down on and hard!

      I work and pay plenty of tax and I am tired of these “benny’s” with their greedy hands out all the time taking my tax money!

    • countryboy says:

      @ ANDREW
      You write:
      “Susan, solo mums represent a particularly intractable problem for western society. ”

      You must have bumped your head, poor lamb. Made you all dyslexic.

      I think you meant to write:
      ” Susan, western society represents a particularly intractable problem for solo mums.”

      You write further, in your inimitable genius, “… the state is no father”

      What then, do you think The State might be if not a collaboration of fathers, mothers, children, relatives, neighbours and sundry strangers all flying through the nightmare the non-state has foisted upon us in close formation. Even you, God help us are a part of The State. The State , need I remind you, is us.
      Personally, I’m ok about single parents getting plenty of money from The State to bring up kids as swell educated and socially well adjusted young humans. Not, as Clean Skins in poverty which is the want of The Corporate. The Fascist. The murderous Haters that lurk about in the pleats of the skirts of the woman bringing up her kids after she gets home from the whore house where she can make enough money to pay jonky’s inflationary rents. Not to mention electricity, phone, transport, Dr’s fees, food etc.
      After you die, I hope you come back as a woman, get pregnant, get abandoned by your lover AND the hallowed ‘ State’ and see how much of a problem you fucking are.

    • Andrea says:

      Then governments need to stop indulging in industrial-level wars and gutting industries before they’ve helped the population upskill, don’t they?

      There were solo mothers galore after the First and Second World Wars – only many of them were dignified with the label ‘widow’. Bringing up kids on their own because dad was dead.

      Kids dumped into orphanages because mum couldn’t pay her way.

      And, while I’m gently ranting here – which version of the wonderful institution of marriage are you yearning after? Hope it’s not one of those freaky Christian Bible types – you know, Like King David and his concubines.

      Actually – this version looks pretty good to me: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/dec/19/china-mosuo-tribe-matriarchy

    • Sally's Husband says:

      “Susan, solo mums represent a particularly intractable problem for western society.

      Male children born to solo mums…”

      Andrew, you’re full of misogynistic bullshit. Nowhere do you mention the role of fathers except at the very end. And even then you ignore WHY women are forced into becoming solo-mums.

      Do you think solo-mums become pregnant through parthenogenesis?? No sperm involved??

      Why haven’t you asked WHY the fathers aren’t around?

      Why haven’t you asked why dead-beat dads aren’t chased up by the State as vigourously as they hunt down solo-mothers??

      How does prolonging divorce (instead of “quickie divorces”) prolong a joyous and happy marriage?? And what the fuckery is a “quickie divorce” anyway?? Do you know how long it takes to get a divorce in NZ? TWO FUCKING YEARS you ignorant twat!

      So if you’re against divorce, I take it you prefer a woman to remain the chattel of her husband?? Is that what you’re hinting at but haven’t the hairy balls to come out honestly and say it??

      Because you’re utterly ignorant, that’s why. Because to address the problems surrounding solo-mothers, you’d be forced to think about the issues, and thinking has never been your strong point.

      You’re a misogynist with deeply rooted mental issues around women. We totally get that.

      People like you are what make the harrassment of solo-mothers possible.

    • elle says:

      I believe Paula Bennet was a solo mum Andrew, dependant on the state for her keep, maybe shes a secret gang member or the wrong colour for you.People are people not statistics.

    • Susan says:

      Andrew
      Mostly I am beyond words when I read your posts. But everything you have written here suggests that you should agree that policy should not punish relationships? yes or no?

  5. Siobhan says:

    The way our Government treats people makes me feel deeply pained. My own memories of raising a family and being on a benefit are painful enough. But the situation I faced 15 years ago seem to be incredibly benign compared to now.

    The price of our so called surplus.

    I’m beginning to think, maybe this country just can’t afford to have the rich anymore.

    It’s time for them to go.

    • Jono says:

      It is. The corporate/elite priority in this country is just stupid and dangerous at the same time. As eventually the underclass will rise up as inequality becomes extreme. The rich should be feeling uneasy as inequality worsens. We have got to reflect on the reality of trends.

  6. garibali says:

    Thank you Susan. The paragraph starting “Being a sole parent is sheer hard work” hits the nail on the head.
    “There but for the grace of God go I” should resonate with millions of New Zealanders, but sadly the opposite has become the norm under 30yrs of Labour/National neoliberalism. We are more than capable of caring for the ‘less well off’ but in our greedy me-me-me scramble to get ahead we cast “losers” adrift.
    Now we will be subject to more of this socially destructive cruelty by two avid fans…..The PM and his deputy.

    • Sally's Husband says:

      “Thank you Susan. The paragraph starting “Being a sole parent is sheer hard work” hits the nail on the head.”

      Very very true Garibaldi.

      One of our female relations is now a solo-mum thanks to her useless ex-hubby deciding to screw a 17 year old, get her pregnant, and piss off to Australia. He’s paid nothing in child support. But according to that half-witted retard, Andrew, above, it’s all women’s fault. Excuse my language, it’s all still fairly raw for our extended family.

  7. Chris says:

    The relationship problem in the benefit system should be at the forefront of the lobby for a UBI. A whole lot more pressure needs to be put on Labour to commit to fixing this instead of letting them pander around talking about the future of work without any intention to do anything about it. Labour talks about a UBI but there doesn’t seem to be any real desire to introduce it – about as much enthusiasm they have for doing anything to help beneficiaries generally. Just look at their track record like abolishing the special benefit and excluding beneficiaries from a whole bunch of financial help because they either don’t have children or haven’t got a job.

    • Susan St John says:

      so agree. Labour is not talking about welfare for the 21st century. The basic insecurity is robbing families on benefits of any joy in life and is surely not what Labour wants

  8. wanafli says:

    It’s the wrong side of unacceptable.

    I had the gross misfortune of being a single (male) parent on the DPB some years ago, and that was bad enough. It is much, much worse now. Those who have never been on a benefit, and/or those who devoutly believe those who are supposed to be guiding this country, have no real idea of what it is like.
    Yes, there are those who do abuse the system-probably always have been, and probably always will be-but for those trying to do their best, to provide for their kids as best they can, to find work, and so on.
    The policy makers live in their crystal palaces, and have no idea at all what is really going with those whose lives they ruin with their stupid half-baked ideas.

    • JRobin says:

      +1 . Two years as a solo mum was a revelation to me too.The prejudice you face is unbelievable if not naturalised by being subjected to it for longer. I’m glad I experienced this, as from the outside middle class parents have no idea of how nasty people are in this puritanical little nation, to any mother who brings up children alone. Solo mothers deserve care and support, not vilification and judgemental treatment by the State.

      • saveNZ says:

        Totally agree JROBIN – what is even scarier is that the other parent often pays nothing and gets off scott free, or is paying but to the state where it does not reach their own children (especially if the parent gets designated to be ‘in another relationship’) or actually one of the other partner’s attacks the other parent in expensive custody disputes or harassment that forces the one with the least money and power into poverty, fear and more debt.

        But even worse are our alarming statistics which shows how many of the women and children are already victims….

        About half of all homicides in New Zealand are committed by an offender who is identified as family. (1)

        NZ Police recorded a family violence investigation on average every five and a half minutes in 2014. (2a) 76% of family violence incidents are NOT reported to Police. (2b)

        110,114 family violence investigations were recorded by NZ Police in 2015, up 8% from 101,981 in 2014. There were 95,101 in 2013. (3)

        In the four years from 2009 to 2012, an average of 13 women, 10 men, and 9 children were killed each year as a result of family violence1. (4)

        24% of women and 6% of men have experienced one or more sexual offences at some point during their lives. (5)

        Disabled women are about twice as likely to be victims of violence or abuse compared to other women. (6)

        http://www.areyouok.org.nz/family-violence/statistics/

        • Susan St John says:

          And the Families First lobby prattles on about marriage being the solution. Women need to know these stats

  9. Blake says:

    Those in need, those feeling abused and suicidal and in poverty and doing it hard do not have friends in this govt.
    The adjective that strikes loud and clear for the punch and judy puppet team of Bill and Paula is — ARROGANCE. These two new leaders float above the rest of us and play a game not worth respecting while others suffer. They continue their ” Rock Star Economy ” BS line of horse manure and they really think they have the majority of us fooled. And they laugh through it all.

    We are sick of the two of them ( and their outgoing serial lying PM ) vomiting lies and misrepresenting what New Zealanders are really going through. They do not know us at all.
    Their smarmy elitist ARROGANCE is so obvious and so disgusting.

    Thanks Susan for highlighting the inequality and social suffering going down that really
    does not need to if we had a govt. ==>> BY AND FOR ALL THE PEOPLE.
    Their clear ongoing motto remains — P R O F I T S — B E F O R E — P E O P L E —

  10. Barazov says:

    When you’re a data genie and you lose your job targeting communities with drone strikes you can always express your homicidal nature working for MSD, targeting single mums and their children!

  11. Victorkahu says:

    Totally agree. If one person isn’t working they should qualify for the benefit. My wife left work 6 months ago and I am judged to earn to much to qualify for any government support. I do not see why my earning should impact on her right to government support. The government does nothing for families with children. The knock back of the increase in paid parental leave was a travesty.

  12. Steve King says:

    Meanwhile, how much was that tax evasion figure again? $5 billion? $6 billion? Going after the soft targets much? Good on ya, MSD. Way to go.

  13. saveNZ says:

    The government likes to have a patsy for fraud – single parents – to hide where the real frauds are being committed – their mates!!! From OZ –

    “THE AUSTRALIAN TAX OFFICE (ATO) released the ‘Corporate Tax Transparency Report’ last week.

    It shows that 38% of the 1539 public and private foreign companies with turnover greater than $100 million paid no income tax in the 2013-14 financial year.

    Recent amendments to the disclosure rules will see the ATO release similar tax details for Australian private companies with turnover greater than $200 million, possibly as early as January 2016.

    This first report specifically names the companies. It shows that 579 big businesses paid no income tax in 2013-14. Let that figure sink in as the government attacks those on welfare, the aged, low paid workers and others and plays around with increasing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and extending its base to fresh food, health, education, sewage and water.

    Among those who paid no income tax were (and this is just a few of the As)

    Adani Abbott Point Terminal Holdings (despite having almost $270 m in gross revenue);
    Australian Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd (with over $3 billion in gross revenue)
    American Express (with sales of $943 million)
    Other non-taxables chosen more or less at random include David Jones with over $2 billion in sales revenue, Qantas, with gross revenue of more than $14 billion, its competitor Virgin, with more than $4 billion in sales, ExxonMobil with more than $9 billion in gross revenue and the University Cooperative Bookshop with sales of $115 million. None had any taxable income or paid any income tax.”

    https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/tax-big-business-avoidance-and-other-bruises,8509

  14. Mike in Auckland says:

    WINZ = NZ version of GESTAPO:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestapo

    And they seem to have the law on their side:
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/296151/beneficiaries-being-monitored-online

    We have a most useless and idiot Privacy Commissioner, a poodle with a bow-tie, but that is wanted of course, hence his appointment:
    “Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said it was important that any information from social media was verified by government agencies.

    “Just because somebody posts something doesn’t mean it’s true and can be relied upon.””

    WTF, is that ALL your concern, Mr Edwards?



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