Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


Marc My Words: 2 September 2004 - Youth Benefits

2 Sept 2004

Marc My Words- by Marc Alexander MP

Labour persists in underdog legislation no matter how much of a dog it is

Recently I have been prompted by a spate of angry parents complaining that the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has been paying kids to split from their families. I'm referring to the Independent Youth Benefit. Since 2001 MSD has spent $109.6 million of tax-payers' money ($25 million in just the last year) separating children from their parents without adequate vetting procedures. In the first six months of this year there were 328 applications for the IYB, of which 205 have been granted.

It is a sad reflection on our society that indeed some young people do need to be protected from their families, but it appears that the MSD doesn't bother to check the truth of the kids' allegations before handing over the money. In the cases I see, good mums and dads are being penalised for wanting to set responsible guidelines and, rather than helping parents to parent, the government is paying these kids to opt out.

In one example it was all about a 17 year old girl not being allowed to have her boyfriend sleep over in her room, and also failing to keep set times to be home, that encouraged her to seek a teacher's help to apply for the IYB. Nobody knows the allegations (and the evidence for them) that she made to get the benefit. Not only were the parents not checked for the truth of them, but they were not allowed to know what they were, the officials concerned citing privacy issues! ...

And if it had been that bad why then is the girl showing up at home for meals, laundry and get-to-gethers? It sounds more like a case of getting all the creature comforts of home with no responsibilities attached to being a family member...and that lack of responsibility paid for by the unwitting tax-payer. The MSD admitted that they do not collect any information on how many applicants for the IYB were declined or cancelled due to false information, nor of any prosecutions as a result of false information.

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). It is supposed to be work-tested, or for those unemployed but enrolled in a full-time course of secondary instruction, or where full-time work has been limited by sickness, injury or disability. The particular provision that is tearing families apart is where there is a supposed breakdown in the young person's relationship with their parents. Trouble is, no-one checks!

The regulations for unmarried applicants includes the requirement that Work and Income 'has to determine if there has been a breakdown between the child and their parents'. Actionworks - which oversees the provision of the IYB - has admitted that they do not establish the veracity of the allegations made that a breakdown in relationship and communication has actually occurred. As illustrated in the experience of the family above, the parents in most cases are never told what the allegations consist of, citing privacy provisions.

They don't even have a chance to set the record straight! In the cases I see before me, the 16 or 17 year olds make allegations that satisfy Work and Income, so they are eligible for a taxpayer funded lifestyle which avoids their being parented! In one case the girl was able go back three times to Work and Income to concoct a better allegation in order to get the benefit!

And the two refusals are double counted so that it doesn't look like officials are handing out the lifestyle money too easily - who are they trying to fool? One girl who got the IYB wrote a letter stating "I now know a lot of young girls who know about the Independent Youth Benefit and talk about applying for it just to get away from their parents because it does have a reputation of being easy to get."

One girl left home on 28 May 2004. She was asked by a psychologist from Group Special Education (GSE), a few days later whether she wanted to go home or accept the IYB. She chose the IYB. Why? Because she didn't want to abide by the normal responsibilities that go with being a member of a family.

And WINZ gave her that option without checking the facts as to whether or not her story was true - and at taxpayers' expense. Work and Income handed over the money and never checked where she was living and under what circumstances . never checked to see if she went to school or was truant . and never checked out what the taxpayers' money went towards.

Now if any of these allegations that led to the IYB were true then why have none of these allegedly offending parents been charged? Not one has! Work and Income is not only irresponsible with taxpayers' money - given on the belief of wrongdoing - and has not pursued any criminal action, yet has enabled children the ability to choose to opt out of being parented.

All the Minister Rick Barker seems intent to do when trying to answer my questions about these things is wave his jaw and jowls like a surrender flag at Iwo Jima! The real question is this: how is it that at a time when we talk so much about parental responsibility this government has removed the ability of parents to be responsible - and with no accountability at all in the way it is done. The IYB is ripping families apart pure and simple.


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On The Peters/Ardern Triumph

There are a lot of good reasons to feel joyful about this outcome. It is what so many young voters – the best hope for the country’s future – wanted.

Far more important than the implications for the Economy Gods ( is the dollar up or down? ) last night’s outcome will also mean many, many vulnerable New Zealanders will have a better life over the next three years at least.

Yet the desire for change was in the majority, across the country..>>>More


Labour on its agreement |Peters: Post-Election Announcement Speech | Greenpeace “cautiously hopeful” about new Government | ACT - Madman on the loose | E tū ecstatic | Chamber welcomes the outcome | Greens on their joining Govt | EDS welcomes new govt | Immigrant groups worry | Feds ready to engage new coalition government | Labour Ministers of the Crown announced


Climate: Increasing Greenhouse Emissions Hit NZ

New Zealand is seeing impacts of excess greenhouse gas emissions in our climate and oceans, according to the latest national report from the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ about the state of the atmosphere and climate…More>>


Wellington.Scoop: Arrests At Blockade Of "Weapons Expo"

“We encourage people in Wellington to get down to the Westpac Stadium now for a day of awesome peace action. There will be plenty of food, music and activities to keep us sustained through the day.” More>>


Rorschach Restructuring: PSA Taking Inland Revenue To Court Over Psychometrics

The Public Service Association will be seeing Inland Revenue in Employment Court over its intention to psychometrically test employees reapplying for their roles at the department as part of its controversial Business Transformation restructuring plan. More>>


Nuclear Disarmament: Nobel Peace Prize 2017 Awarded To ICAN

Congratulations from iCAN Aotearoa New Zealand to international iCAN, the other iCAN national campaigns and partner organisations, and the countless organisations and individuals who have worked so hard for a nuclear weapons-free world since 1945. More>>


Expenses: Waikato DHB CEO Resigns

An independent inquiry has identified that Dr Murray had spent more than the agreed $25K allocated for relocation costs, and other unauthorized expenses involving potential financial breaches of the chief executive’s obligations. More>>


Wellington.Scoop: Sad About The Trolley Buses?

The Regional Council’s MetLink is today spending money to tell us that it really loves Wellington’s trolley buses, even though they’re all being taken off our roads by the end of this month. More>>


Post-Election: Preliminary Coalition Talks Begin

New Zealand First will hold post-election preliminary discussions in Wellington with the National Party tomorrow morning and the Labour Party tomorrow afternoon. More>>




Featured InfoPages

Opening the Election