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$110m poured into blindly separating families

Wednesday, 1 September, 2004

Alexander: $110m poured into blindly separating families

Almost $110 million has been spent separating teenagers from their parents by means of the Independent Youth Benefit since 2001, with virtually no checks and balances, United Future's Marc Alexander said today.

"And the result is that we have teens who are told to be home by a reasonable time at night by responsible parents, and who get brassed off and go selling sob stories to a gullible Ministry of Social Development and walk away with a wad of cash," Mr Alexander said.

"The Ministry is effectively paying kids to move away from their parents and it is not meeting its statutory obligation to check into the claims made by the teenagers requesting the benefit," he said.

The Christchurch-based MP said he had been approached by a number of families who felt that their teenage children had been tempted by easy money to make all sorts of claims to get paid autonomy from their families. There were 328 applications for the benefit in the first six months of this year and 205 were granted.

"Of course, some young people need the protection of living away from their families, but the Ministry doesn't check the allegations before handing over the public's money. "I have seen good mums and dads being penalised for wanting to set responsible guidelines and, rather than help parents to parent, the Government is paying spoilt kids to opt out."

Today in Parliament, Mr Alexander cited the case of a 17-year-old not allowed to have her boyfriend sleep over in her room and having set times to be home, and who solicited a teacher's help to get the benefit.

"Nobody knows what allegations she had to make to get the benefit, as no investigation was undertaken and the parents were refused any information on the allegations because of supposed privacy issues!" he said.

"If the Ministry does what is should have done in the first place and investigates this case, it will find that the girl is now showing up in the home for meals, laundry and family get-togethers," Mr Alexander said.

The Independent Youth Benefit is meant to be paid to a single young person aged 16 or 17 without dependent children who is not living at home as a result of a breakdown in their family (and, as a consequence, not financially supported by their parents).

The Ministry's failings extend to its record-keeping, with huge anomalies in the reporting of accepted and decline claims for the benefit, Mr Alexander said.


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