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Social Security (Re-write) Bill

MEDIA RELEASE

AOTEAROA NEW ZEALAND ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS

SOCIAL SECURITY LEGISLATION REWRITE BILL SECTIONS 176, 177 AND 178

The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) calls for the removal of Sections 176, 177 and 178 from the Social Security Legislation Rewrite Bill as introduced by Government.

These sections impose a weekly sanction of $22 or more per child on beneficiary sole mothers who have not identified the father of their child/children. This sanction (in its current form of Section 70A of the Social Security Act) is putting into further hardship families already struggling to survive.

Currently there are approximately 17,000 children in Aotearoa New Zealand for which this sanction is imposed. Of the 13,616 parents, 13,298 are women, and only 318 are men. 52.8% are Māori. This policy severely disproportionately effects women and Māori. 18% of sole parents receiving support from Work & Income are subject to these sanctions.

For some people $22-$28 a week (or $1,144 – $1,456 a year) per child might not seem much, however the majority of sole parent families receiving benefits already face severe hardship, and these sanctions only serve to increase the severity.

For a sole mother, $22-$28 per week is the difference between taking her child to the doctor when they are sick, or hoping it just goes away. It is the difference between providing school lunches, or the kids going to school empty handed.

These provisions in law presume that women are dishonest, rather than disadvantaged and in need of support. They require women to sit in open plan Work and Income offices and disclose very intimate details about the conception of their child/ children. The reality is that many women have very good reasons for not disclosing these details, including being victims of violence and rape. Work and Income staff, are not trained to question or listen empathically to such disclosures. Conversely, they are required to pursue a punitive, inquisitorial agenda.

Of course, these sanctions punish not only these women, but also their children with the consequences of child poverty widely documented.

We request of the House of Representatives that the entirety of the provisions set out in Sections 176, 177 and 178 of the Social Security Legislation Rewrite Bill, which enable sanctions on the benefits of thousands of sole mothers and their children, be removed from the bill and from legislation.

ENDS


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