Written By: - Date published: 7:04 am, June 2nd, 2017 - 103 comments
Categories: benefits, child welfare, human rights, welfare - Tags: apology, beneficiary bashing, justice, ministry of social development, msd, rape
Newshub did good work here:
Rape victim has benefit docked by WINZ
A young rape victim who became pregnant to her attacker had her benefit docked by Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) – because she refused to name the father of her child.
But after a lengthy battle, the government agency has finally admitted it got it wrong.
The woman – known only as Laura for privacy reasons – had the money deducted even though the law provides an exemption to the sanction if the child is born of sexual assault or incest.
“I don’t want to put that person on my son’s birth certificate cause I don’t want him to be known as a product of rape,” she says.
But because she wouldn’t name the father WINZ started cutting her benefit by $22 a week, rising to $28 a week. The deductions lasted about two-and-a-half years. But here is the thing – there’s an exemption to the sanction if the pregnancy is the result of a sexual assault.
More than two months ago she tried again to get the money back – still no result from WINZ. Until Newshub got involved. …
To her credit, the Minister has apologised:
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley apologises to rape victim who refused to name father of her child
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has apologised in Parliament to a rape victim whose benefit was wrongly docked after she refused to name the father of her child.
Tolley has also now also asked officials to review the requirement for women to disclose the name of the father of their child or risk having the benefit docked as a sanction.
She said the reason there was an obligation to name a father, except in cases such as rape, was to try to ensure the father paid a fair share of child support.
She said the Government had no intention of changing the obligation, which was put in place under National in 1990 and the penalties were increased by Labour in the 2000s. However, she had asked officials to assess its effectiveness.
There are circumstances beyond rape where a mother might not know the father’s details, or might not wish the father of her child to be known. To impose a financial penalty in such cases seems misguided, punitive, and likely to damage the child (yes I think Labour was wrong on this). If the Nats have “no intention of changing the obligation” then this is an issue that needs to be looked at with an open mind by a new government. The spotlight shone on this case might have a much wider impact than “Laura” expected.