National’s benefit sanctions – the wolf is not your grandma

Written By: - Date published: 9:30 am, December 2nd, 2017 - 78 comments
Categories: benefits, welfare - Tags: , , , , ,

The tories seem to have found a new angle on the government’s removal of benefit sanctions that punish the children of beneficiaries who don’t name both parents.

Now Louise Upston is saying National opposes the change because it’s not fair on children who will lose their right to a family connection.

I think this is what some people call compassionate conservatism – and what everyone else calls absolute bollocks.

The idea that you can be a noble guardian of children’s whakapapa by taking food out of their mouths is as absurd as it is disingenuous.

We all know (because they made little secret of it) that, when in government, National pandered to beneficiary bashers and set the welfare system up to be as stingy as possible – penny pinching by taking money away from those who need it most while doing nothing to rein in the vastly more damaging behaviour of the likes of property speculators and tax dodgers.

But at least they were a little bit more upfront then, often spinning this sort of stuff as the ‘tough’ punitive measure it was. Now it seems in opposition the wolf is attempting to dress back up as grandma again.

Here’s a helpful suggestion for them though – if they really care (or at least want to more convincingly look like they care) about children’s sense of identity and/or deadbeat dads who don’t contribute – both of which are legitimate issues – they should address those by proposing incentives rather than sanctions.

One option could be to try some sort of amnesty – wave penalties and maybe offer a discount on ongoing child support payments if you come forward within a certain timeframe – that’s if the welfare of the child really is more important than the money.

Then there is no danger of punishing victims of rape and domestic violence who need protection and currently have to go through a re-victimising process to avoid losing much needed money from already meagre benefits.

Let’s see some creative, truly compassionate, private members bills in the ballot from Louise Upston.

Or is this just the grandstanding it looks like?

78 comments on “National’s benefit sanctions – the wolf is not your grandma”

  1. Sabine 1

    Labour needs to set a ‘benefit for children’. Single stay at home mothers/fathers get a benefit for her/himself and a separate benefit for the child/children. The benefit of the child is calculated upon the income of the parent, and is given in the name of the child and can not be sanctioned irrespective of the doings of the parents (IF the parents are drug users or other wise mentally unable the benefit of the child can be paid to a nominated carer). Irrespective if the father or mother are named, are involved with the child care, are still living in the country or in the worst case scenario that the father of the child is the ‘father, uncle, brother, cuzz, or friend of dad’ to the mother.

    It can’t be that hard.

    National, still living in the 15 century. Bigotry above welfare, National!

    • red-blooded 1.1

      Sorry, Sabine, but that sounds:
      a) REALLY complicated,
      b) inequitable, and
      c) impractical.

      When you say the benefit for the child depends on the parent’s income, but the single parent is also being paid a benefit (meaning that that’s their income) that seems to be a bit of a loop. Besides, why should children whose parents get a higher benefit (maybe because they need accommodation support because they live in Auckland or Queenstown) need more money than those who live elsewhere? Food and clothing and other necessities for kids are no more expensive (in fact they may well be cheaper).

      And let’s remember that even if there were separate payments for kids, it would still be the parent managing the money. Parents who faced difficult circumstances, or were poor managers, would still have access to the kids’ money.

      I understand your point about kids who are living away from their parents, but I’m pretty sure there’s already a system for making payments to nominated caregivers, and of course the Independent Youth Allowance for people over (I think) 15 who go through a legal process to “divorce” their parents.

      It’s great to see the government moving away from the punitive approach. I really hope there’s a bigger work programme being developed for the welfare sector.

      • tracey 1.1.1

        No harder than the development of the current formula

        • red-blooded

          I don’t see how this comment addresses any of the issues raised above.

          When it comes right down to it, the parents would (in almost all cases) still be managing the money. So, what would be achieved?

          And let’s remember that a lot of the spending that impacts on a child’s quality of life can’t be separated out from spending the parent does on their own behalf: rent, power, food choices (it’s not like the child is going to have their own catering service)…

          The number of children should definitely be factored into any benefit paid to a parent/caregiver, and it is. I’m not saying the current amount or formula can’t be improved (I know it can be), but the approach Sabine is suggesting isn’t practical or equitable.

      • Sabine 1.1.2

        The parents benefit depends on their income. i.e. stay at home mum. or part time worker, or full time worker. Depending on that the benefit for the adult is calculated.

        the benefit of the child is set by the government and is a fixed amount paid. i.e. first child 0 – 5 years – 120$ per week, 6 – 12 years 150 $ per week, 12 – 18 120$ per week plus what ever they earn should they have a part time job. (i just pulled these numbers out of the sky – some parents may chime in and give their two cents)

        this benefit of the child is not dependent on the income of the parent, however i can agree to a means test of a high income threshold.

        Ahh, but i get it, its in the too hard basket, cause someone would actually have to think about something and word it, and debate it and such and such and its just easier to do nuthing, wring our hands, throw ashes on our heads and wail. Sure.

  2. greywarshark 2

    We all know (because they made little secret of it) that, when in government, National pandered to beneficiary bashers and set the welfare system up to be as stingy as possible – penny pinching by taking money away from those who need it most while doing nothing to rein in the vastly more damaging behaviour of the likes of property speculators and tax dodgers….

    Here’s a helpful suggestion for them though – if they really care (or at least want to more convincingly look like they care) about children’s sense of identity and/or deadbeat dads who don’t contribute – both of which are legitimate issues – they should address those by proposing incentives rather than sanctions.

    The deadbeat dads who don’t contribute [any sense of restraint on behaviour, morality, kindness, interest and positive socialisation]….legitimate issues….are going to result in ‘the vastly more damaging behaviour [than] the likes of property speculators and tax dodgers.

    The domestic violence that is so rampant in NZ is largely inflamed, I believe, by women being forced to name and interact with men who are just shocking role models for the children in the man’s own habits, and they provide awful role models to the children of how men treat women when they are annoyed or upset which may be a large part of the time.

    Forget about the money, people can find a way to improve themselves if they don’t live in fear of threats and violence. But get a man who wants his home benefits and doesn’t want to be a provider of anything, just a taker, and he will bleed the household dry and on the rare occasions he seems helpful and amenable his motives would be questioned. It is anti-social behaviour and unhealthy for family life and personality development, and affects the mother’s ability to provide stable proper parenting.

    Another thing is that naming the father can result in lies that men unfairly named naturally resent. When money is tight, a woman can think back as to who she was involved with at time of conception and pick the man who now appears to be the best, and she will be tempted to pin the child on him. At one time before DNA tests it was hard to reach certainty about this. This naming law creates a situation that comes under the heading of moral hazard. It should be up to the mother, and she should be advised that if she doesn’t legally declare it, it would be wise to keep a note of the likely fathers in case future connections may be sought.

    • Et Tu Brute 2.1

      But now we have DNA testing, with a high degree of accuracy, can men still complain they’re unfairly named?

      • Zorb6 2.1.1

        My understanding is that the woman involved can reject any call for DNA,whether the alleged father or anyone else wants it done or not.

        • Et Tu Brute

          Well that’s silly. Natural justice should allow a claim to be test, especially since it is both a social and financial claim (ie. the father will have to pay the mother money).

          • Zorb6

            Silly or not,thats the law.

            • Tracey

              To avoid arguments can you post a link to the Law cos first you said you thought it was the law and then you said it is the law?

              • Zorb6

                Yes,it is the law as far as I know.If you don’t think it is,you can show why it is not.

                • tracey

                  You are the one saying it is, so you post proof of your certainty? Why make me prove a negative?

                  • Zorb6

                    My understanding is that you have a law background.If that is indeed the case it will be a simple exercise for you.

                    • tracey

                      I am not the one making the claim zorb6. You are. Post the link or withdraw the statement, that is what happens to right wingers who make claims without support? I have no idea why you are being so defensive about this, just post a link to the law.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Just admit it, you have no clue what the law says.

        • Tracey

          I have never met a mother who refused dna testing the father was happy to do. The reverse, yes. Many times.

          Perhaps National can share their record on getting non paying parents to pay up before they endorse adding more to a list that isnt addressed.

        • mickysavage

          My understanding is that the woman involved can reject any call for DNA,whether the alleged father or anyone else wants it done or not.

          No one can be compelled to give a DNA sample in a paternity proceeding but the court can draw an adverse inference from the failure to do so.

          • Zorb6

            Thanks for clearing that up for Tracey.

            • tracey

              Zorb6, maybe you can answer my question below this as you have quite a lot of knowledge of this area?

              • Zorb6

                Not sure why you think your time is wasted learning something today,that you never knew previously.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  All we “know” now is that for practical purposes, the law is unclear. Yes, you’re “free” to refuse to provide a sample and the court will hold that against you.

                  You might as well say you’re “free” to steal on that basis.

          • tracey

            Mickey, what percentage of paternity proceedings do you reckon are men trying to get their paternity declared rather than women wanting a father proven? Genuine question. Would be interesting to see if the rates of men using the process to get themselves declared the legal Dad have risen in recent years.

    • Chris 2.2

      “It should be up to the mother, and she should be advised that if she doesn’t legally declare it, it would be wise to keep a note of the likely fathers in case future connections may be sought.”

      Not any more. This government’s promised to repeal the section that penalises sole parents who don’t name the other parent, and about bloody time, too. So all this talk of what sole parents should or shouldn’t do is completely moot.

  3. Et Tu Brute 3

    It is a tough one. No one wants to disadvantage children. But what measures do you take when parents don’y follow expectations? Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child says children have “the right to know … his or her parents.” Pretty simple. Does anyone disagree?

    Now how we do that without disadvantaging the children? If the mother names the father, the father has to pay child support. If the mother doesn’t name the father, the burden falls on the taxpayer. So it is a social good, and an ethical good under the Convention, for both mother and father to be named on birth certificate.

    But how do you achieve that without hurting the children? I don’t have an easy answer. Maybe part is in looking at how child support is assessed. Maybe another is to have strict rules, but a non-financial disincentive.

    It’s really tough, as we fought for years overseas to get my stepson’s father’s name removed from the birth certificate. It never worked. But I’m sensitive as well to the many reasons why one may wish to keep it off.

    • Tracey 3.1

      Um, a child can know who their father is without him being named in a WINZ declaration. Upston seems to be leaving out the suggestion that to avoid naming for DV a mother had to explain why she didnt have a protection order etc etc

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.2


      Meanwhile, on Earth, Article 19 of the UDoHR says: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

      Your “expectations” are in breach of international law and New Zealand’s duty to uphold same.

      So I suggest you take your expectations and shove them.

  4. Zorb6 4

    Waiving penalties and offering discounts,penalises those fathers contributing as already required.

    • tracey 4.1

      Can you explain that further cos I dont quite follow what you mean?

      Hopefully doing the right thi g by their offspring is more important than a lost opportunity to play the system?

      • Zorb6 4.1.1

        If father A is paying his share of child support as per existing law,he may be quite justifiably aggrieved if father B who is not,recieves waivers and incentives.Can you understand that or is it too complex?

        • tracey

          Why will he be aggrieved and why is he comparing his obligation to care for his offspring with someone who doesnt? Or do fathers operate on a ” if others dont have to pay to care for their progeny I wont either”, basis? I would hate to rate fathers as poorly as you seem to.

          • Zorb6

            I believe its called ‘human nature’.How you rate that is your own personal opinion.

            • tracey

              Thanks for clearing up that you based that view on how you would behave.

              • Zorb6

                If you payed tax,but your neighbour didn’t and was caught out,and had a portion of their tax waived,I take it you would be ,just fine with that.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Happens all the time in business bankruptcy cases.

                  Keep whinging that they stole your precious.

                  • Zorb6

                    These are personal responsibilities.A big difference.

                    • red-blooded

                      How’s it different? Some businesses pay their taxes, others declare bankruptcy and then set up again under a different name. The owner(s) are cleared of responsibility for the debts they created, including their tax debts. It’s a way of avoiding paying tax, which is a responsibility of all citizens, residents and businesses.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      I interpret that vague inarticulate crap to mean that you’ve swallowed the gobshite about personal responsibility.

                      More fool you.

                    • Zorb6

                      I must say ,you are a rather hostile ‘pet’ troll.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Tell you what, rather than shooting the messenger, why don’t you have a second attempt at making the point R/L and I responded to.

                    • Zorb6

                      To state the obvious ,while Corporations may have the legal rights of persons,this topic concerns benefit sanctions.Liable parent contributions require a liable parent,and we have established that a woman can name an individual as the father and that will suffice.As far as DNA and how a judge would look on a test not being available to establish paternity(responsibility)goes,there could be a number of mitigating circumstances..i.e each case is different and any assumptions you have made are not guaranteed.Comparing liable parents with company bankruptcies are an apples and oranges argument,as I suspect you know,full well.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Also, individuals (eg: sole traders) can go bankrupt, and when they do, the IRD often writes off large amounts of tax. So your example doesn’t invalidate the comparison.

                      However, that isn’t a breach of anyone’s human rights, whereas discriminating against people who refuse to name the other parent of their child(ren), is.

                    • Zorb6

                      @OAB.I told you what the topic is.Stick to it.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      I know what the topic is: you’re flailing around and lashing out at people because you think someone stole your precious.

                      You attempted to make your point with an example about taxation, hence my point about tax write-offs.

                      If hypothetical Father A feels “aggrieved”, I suggest he stop being such a curtain-twitching judgemental cry-baby, and get over the fact that he isn’t his brother’s keeper.

                      But in reality your purported cry-baby is a projection of you, eh.

                    • Zorb6

                      @OAB.I attempted to elaborate on human nature to a particularly thick respondent.You are trying to divert and twist the discussion.An all too common feature of any dialogue you enter.You suffer from low self esteem imo.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      “elaborate on human nature”

                      Yes, that’s what we’re discussing: specifically, I’m testing your opinion of what human nature is like against observable reality.

                      So I ask again, other than advise him to stop being such a cry-baby, what can we do for your hypothetical curtain twitcher?

                      You’re not suggesting that we enact legislation to pander to his vile vengeance fantasies, are you?

                    • boggis the cat

                      Paying your tax in full is also a personal responsibility. Presumably you are opposed to the various methods that the wealthy use to avoid paying their full tax liability.

        • UncookedSelachimorpha

          The weird thing is to then go punish mother and kids, for the failings of father B…

          And why would father A worry so much about it? Hopefully he is worried about doing the right thing himself, and also pleased to see kids of father B given good care and opportunities, even if father B is useless.

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            What’s weird about it?

            The National Party requires that people judge and hate one another. Otherwise they’d never get elected.

  5. mickysavage 5

    Well said Enzo. Especially this bit:

    “The idea that you can be a noble guardian of children’s whakapapa by taking food out of their mouths is as absurd as it is disingenuous.”

    • Sabine 5.1

      So what is Labour going to do then to fix it. And fix it once and for all? Cause if they only tweak a bit here and there, the next time National gets in, and they will – such is the world – they will tweak it right back.

      What is Labour going to propose to assure that children whose parents are on a benefit do not suffer unduly if a parent gets sanctioned. I mean we can all agree that children are not responsible for the parents they never got to choose?

      • tracey 5.1.1

        I doubt there is anything that can be done to stop Nats changing it back next time BUT Labour did not make much impact on Richardsons machete when they returned in 99… so until the band of voters both big parties chase on this change their view of those on beneficiaries…?

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          Entrenching the BoRA would go a long way towards ensuring that the National Party human rights abusers could be dealt to appropriately.

          • Matthew Whitehead

            Entrenching BoRA doesn’t actually do anything, FYI, because there is no requirement that Parliament pass bills consistent with BoRA. What needs to be done is that BoRA needs some reasonable exceptions and framework added to it, and then the whole thing needs to be made sovereign over Parliament, so that the courts can strike down laws that violate human rights.

            It does risk politicising the judiciary, but it seems to be the only reasonable way to ensure politicians actually follow the rules.

            • solkta

              Yes, the current situation is ridiculous. You can take your local school board to court if they breach the Act but not the government.

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              Any entrenched legislation requires a 75% majority to change, so it would do something.

              However, I meant what you described: an effective repeal of Section 4.

              • Matthew Whitehead

                Well, yes, it would “do something,” but not regarding the problem you were talking about, which I figured was reasonable context to assume. 😉

                Entrenching the BoRA after making it sovereign over Parliament might be useful, though. The reason I say it will “do nothing” at the moment is because National are perfectly content to have BoRA in legislation so long as their laws don’t have to be consistent with it, so there is no real danger of it ever being repealed atm.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  It does however provide a very specific and easily explained wedge to drive between the National Party and the electorate.

                  Few people realise that their human rights are forfeit when they walk through those doors at WINZ. Increased casualisation means that affects more and more voters.

                  It’s the NZLP that needs convincing.

        • weka

          Change the culture. This is whey McFlock’s incremental change view is flawed over the long term. We need to address immediate poverty reduction in whatever way we can, but we also need to change how NZ relates to its own poverty and punishment ethos. If we don’t, then it’s just going to come back the other way again, probably worse because we’ll be closer to disruptive CC and people will be retrenching into conversation positions out of fear. We’ve got a window currently.

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            Entrenching the BoRA would put pressure on the culture to change. Otherwise we’ll just end up waiting for all the bigots to die.

            It would be nice to think we could “change” endemic prejudice. In the meantime its victims should not go unprotected.

            • weka

              Chicken and egg, and I think entrenching the BoRA needs cultural change alongside (and prior) otherwise you just get more division and a bigger chunk of resentment than is necessary or workable.

              Of course the culture that would have to change first, to enable wider cultural change and entrenching BoRa is Labour’s.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                “Entrench the BoRA” is a pretty succinct way to answer the question: “what do you want?”

                People are generally unaware that if they are made redundant and need to claim their entitlements, they automatically give up certain human rights.

                So when you say “change the culture”, I have a very particular goal in mind.

        • cleangreen

          100% tracey bang on there exactly.

          “Labour did not make much impact on Richardsons machete when they returned in 99”

          It was their last term that they made some inroads so this time are they planning their changes to take affect in six years time or more?

          Then to save themselves from a forthcoming hostile electorate, they need to revert to use a change to the reserve bank act to print money for “essential services” as our trading partners did or face the electorate ready to eject them, (God forbid)?

        • Sabine

          We can’t change the past.
          We can however change the future.

          So really, as i said before, i don’t much care about what was done under such and such as this is something that is done. I do care however what Labour is going to do to change this odious part of our Welfare State in the future.
          I also don’t expect National to not be National, full of shit, bigoted and cruel. I do however expect something from our current government. So my question stands, what is Labour/NZFirst/Green going to do to keep the children of this country save from over zealous WINZ drones that have a ‘sanctions’ quote to upheld in order to meet their KPIs.

          • tracey

            What do you want them to do? I cannot see Labour or NZF doing more than edge tinkering.

            The past informs the present and foretells the future.

            I see no significant cultural shift coming in the next 3 years.

  6. eco Maori 6

    I think the welfare system is stuffed up we should encourage GOOD 2 parent family’s
    as in my view the stats will show that children of 2 parent are more successful than 1 parent family’s so I say reward good 2 parent family’s and we will reap the benefits of this idea which is a logical-idea and it is not rocket science. I do believe that the men who father a child should help pay for the child’s care this teachers the men to be responsible or there actions the problem is that the wealthy have Impunity and this teaches people not to stand up and take ownership of there actions 1 CTV building 2 john key and speargun 3 bill english and his accommodation fraud 4 historic cases of children being abused while in state care .There is many more examples of the wealthy having impunity around our world as well . This is the 21st century one can not hide anything with our 21 century communication device so a massage to the wealthy you should start practicing what you preach enough said. Ana to kai

    • greywarshark 6.1

      Do you get into Promise Keeper territory eco Maori? I agree it is best to have two parents working in harmony usually, single parents I think are more likely to come from a family that hasn’t found balance in its term. However all parents should be helped, and parenting raised as a desirable learning subject. Making fathers pay for their children is putting money before the important task of providing good role models and being there for the children and other parent when needed.

      It would be far better not to take money from them and get them to go to parenting classes and learn how to encourage, teach kids, control themselves, think about what they want the kids to learn from them. Then interactions are likely to be to everyone’s benefit. There are males who get into a toxic hate against the mother and kill the children and themselves to destroy her. Cut out the money and introduce the adult in the male to what being a responsible parent is, that is more important than taking a mere moralistic and commercial attitude.

  7. bwaghorn 7

    the fucking woman upston said nuffin when as minister of woman key assaulted a young lady , shes a fake hag , nuff said

    • tracey 7.1

      Not quite true… on International womens day she started a speech by declaring she is not a feminist !

  8. Chris 8

    Don’t forget, Ezno, the nasty things Labour did to welfare when in government, and again when in opposition, too, voting with the nats’ 2014 welfare “reforms”. Quite unbelievable, I know, but true. We need to make sure Labour doesn’t do it again.

  9. Bondy 9

    It appears a Govt Minister is going to introduce more Benefit Sanctions (they’ll be called something else so as not to upset the junior partner PM) How does everyone feel about this?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 9.1

      It appears as though you think a single Minister doesn’t have to seek Cabinet approval, even though said Minister actually stated as much in his remarks.

      Do you always struggle with English comprehension, or have you just given up your critical faculties in exchange for a position in the parrot chorous?

      It isn’t even his portfolio. Please try and think for yourself for a change.

    • Chris 9.2

      If you’re talking about what Jones said this morning then you’re wrong. Jones himself said that the work would pay the minimum wage so, while still crap, hardly “work for the dole”. The media has taken this “work for the dole” description way too far. If anything eventuates it’ll be more like Taskforce Green or PEP. And there won’t be sanctions – government has signaled getting rid of the worst of these. It’ll simply be “take a suitable job or lose the dole” – pretty much what being eligible for the dole’s always been about.

  10. Bondy 10

    “If you’re in receipt of a benefit and not willing to change your lifestyle and get into work, then expect sanctions to be put on you.”
    Seems to conflict with the promises made to gain support from another Party (that has Labour over a barrel) to allow beneficiaries a free reign to choose that lifestyle. Spin it how you want.

    • joe90 10.1

      Where can I find these – promises made to gain support from another Party […] to allow beneficiaries a free reign to choose that lifestyle – that you speak of?.

  11. Michelle 11

    What a load of bull from the tories who have incarcerated record numbers of fathers and mothers under there regime and they didn’t give a stuff about all the children they left without parents. I find many of the tory women to be heartless bitches.

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