Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 


Guilty of being a beneficiary

Guilty of being a beneficiary


Kay Brereton Co-convenor of the National Beneficiary Advocacy Federation of NZ is concerned that “ government plans for changing the rules for investigating benefit fraud constitutes an abuse of human rights, which removes the privacy rights of a class of citizens.”

“While we support the idea of making both parties to a fraud liable for any debt relating to fraud where a relationship in the nature of marriage is proven, we are very concerned at the removal of the requirement for investigators to first seek information from the parties under investigation.”

“All citizens of New Zealand believe they have the right to be treated as innocent until they are proven to be guilty.”

“This will no longer be the case for superannuitants, students, and anyone else who has received assistance from Work and Income, and finds themselves the subject of an investigation by the Benefit Fraud Investigation Unit.”

“In 1997 Parliament amended the Social Security Act to require the Ministry of Social Development to develop a code of conduct to guide the use of the information collection powers they exercise under section 11. This amendment to the Act clearly stated a requirement for information to first be sought from the beneficiary unless there exists 'reasonable cause' to believe that to do so would be 'likely to prejudice the maintenance of the law'. This amendment was enacted in part as a result of recommendations made by the Privacy Commisioner in 1994 as a result of complaints about the variable use of Section 11 by Ministry staff.”

“I understand the government has ammended the code of conduct to allow the National Fraud Investigation Unit to treat anyone under investigation by them as “likely to prejudice the maintenance of the law”, everyone under investigation will be treated as guilty and likely to delay or impede an investigation.

“At present the Social Security Act requires the Ministry to first seek information from the beneficiary before seeking it from a third party, it is the effect of this policy change to ignore the legislation.

“This intended change to policy means that the Fraud Investigator will first go to; current and former landlords, employers, children’s schools and day-care, banks and others, advising them that the person is a beneficiary under investigation for fraud.”

“In many cases an explanation from the accused party will resolve the investigation meaning little or no further resources are needed.

“Of the 16,266 allegations in 2010 only 2,424 resulted in a debt (14.9%) and of these only 690 were found to have warranted prosecution (4.24%).

“Often the allegation leading to an investigation will have a malicious source, resource material from Women's Refuge refers to “threatening to dob you in to welfare” as a common threat made in domestically abusive relationships.

“I am not satisfied that this change will not breach the privacy of individuals by disclosing to third parties that the individual is a beneficiary accused of fraud, this may have serious implications in relation to employment, housing and treatment by members of their community.”

“This is a stark contrast to the treatment of those under investigation for tax fraud; a fraud which costs the country far more than benefit fraud. Tax fraudsters are encouraged to make voluntary disclosure as early as possible to reduce the penalities imposed by the state.”

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

 

PARLIAMENT TODAY:

Labour: New Figures Show Speculators Rampant

New figures released by the Reserve Bank show there’s been an explosion in mortgage lending with most of the growth going to property investors, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. More>>

ALSO:

False Official Information Response: English's Apology Accepted

Finance Minister Bill English is being thanked for his apology to New Zealand First Leader and Member of Parliament for Northland Rt Hon Winston Peters... Mr English says his staff and the Treasury have searched again, and they found the document that they denied having. More>>

ALSO:

Midwives On Pay Equity: Historic Bill Of Rights Case For High Court

“We have been left with no choice.” That from Karen Guilliland, the Chief Executive of the New Zealand College of Midwives, as the organisation prepares to file a pay parity discrimination case on the basis of gender under the NZ Bill of Rights Act in the High Court. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Children’s Commission Report On CYF

Accusing the overworked and underfunded staff at Child, Youth and Family of a “dump and run culture of neglect” is the kind of luxury that a Children’s Commissioner can afford to indulge in from his own comfy perch in the bureaucracy. More>>

ALSO:

Mt Eden Prison: Serco Inquiry Extended

A two month delay to the Government investigation into prison fight clubs shows the extent of problems within the Serco circus, says Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Politics
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news