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Sanctions Will Disadvantage Children

Children already at risk of poverty will be hardest hit if sanctions contained in the Working Towards Employment Bill are implemented, according to the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services.

The Bill is currently before the Social Service Select Committee. It proposes a new case management approach to beneficiaries on the Domestic Purpose and Widow's Benefit. Sole parents can be required to develop a Working Towards Employment Plan immediately after the birth of their child and can be sanctioned for not fulfilling it.

'The government is claiming that this legislation removes work-testing. However, if obligations and sanctions are in place then work testing can not be said to have been removed', said Adrian Whale, Executive Officer of NZCCSS.

'This legislation in fact makes the situation worse for sole parents with children under 6 years because it increases the demands that Work and Income can make of them. This flies in the face of what we know about the importance of parenting in these early years.

NZCCSS considers that there is no need for sanctions in the first place, a position that is backed up by both key government research and research undertaken by NZCCSS . This research shows that this population of beneficiaries is highly work-motivated and likely to move into work if they found suitable employment.

'Getting a job as quickly as possible is not always the best and only answer to reducing poverty. As a country we need to value the work and contribution that parents make to society in raising children, rather than pressurise them into employment.

'From our perspective the threat of sanctions adds to the hardship that many sole parent families are already facing', said Adrian Whale. Sole parent families are consistently the highest users of foodbanks, according to NZCCSS research. Most of these families have less than $200 a week to spend after paying for housing.

'Our evidence shows that they are under extreme pressure to survive on a single income. The provisions in this Bill do nothing to relieve that pressure and could conceivably worsen it for some families', concluded Mr Whale. .

-ends-

Backgrounder Comparing the Current Situation With Proposed Sanctions

This Government has introduced the Social Security (Working Towards Employment) Amendment Bill (WTE Bill). It proposes a new case management approach, based on a Working Towards Employment Plan, for those on the Domestic Purpose and Widow's Benefit. The Bill is currently before the social service select committee.

What changes in terms of work-testing and sanctions?

One of the stated purposes of this Bill is to remove work-testing for those on the Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB)and Widows Benefit (WB). However, this Bill does not remove work-testing if we define work-testing as the requirement to fulfil a work related obligation in order to receive benefit entitlement.

Instead, the WTE Bill replaces current work-testing with wider ranging requirements, that are intended to start from the moment someone is granted the DPB/WB. These requirements can equally be made of someone with a newborn, depending on the discretion of the WINZ case manager. Thus, from our perspective, the Bill relies to heavily on case managers ability to interpret the requirement and sanction provisions.

The following table compares the current requirements and sanctions with the proposed regime for the three different age groups set out in the current regime.

The table also shows that sanctions remain in place for all those on the DPB and Widow's Benefit.

For further information on why NZCCSS is opposed to sanctions please see the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services Submission on the Social Security (Working Towards Employment) Amendment Bill (WTE Bill) or contact .

CURRENT WORK-TESTING WORK-TESTING UNDER THE WTE BILL

Youngest child 0-6 yrs old Youngest child 0-6 yrs old Must attend 1 mandatory planning interview per annum. A failure to attend can result in sanctions. Must undertake a work preparation exercise when youngest child turns 5 years.

Sanctions Sanctions under current legislation are - suspension of 50% of benefit until compliance for 1st and 2nd failure. On the 3rd failure, 50% of benefit is cancelled for 13 weeks. Must attend an interview to develop a Working Towards Employment Plan. A failure to develop this promptly or a failure to sign it can result in sanctions.
Must demonstrate a commitment to the goals and action plan in the WTE Plan at the annual review of the WTE plan. A failure to demonstrate this commitment can result in sanctions.

Sanctions Sanctions under WTE Bill are - benefit reduced by 20% until compliance. If after 4 weeks there is a failure to comply then benefit is reduced by 50%. Youngest child 6-13yrs old

Must be available and looking for part-time work of at least 15 hours per week. Must sign a job seeker agreement and participate in job seeker development activities. A failure to comply with requirements can lead to sanctions

Sanctions same as above Youngest child 6-13yrs old

Same as above

Sanctions same as above

Youngest child over 14yrs old

Must be available and looking for full-time work of at least 30 hours per week. Must sign a job seeker agreement and participate in job seeker development activities. A failure to comply with requirements can lead to sanctions

sanctions same as above Youngest child over 14yrs old

Same as above

sanctions same as above

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