Penalising approach not welcomed

Backing for beneficiaries

2005. A church agency representing the views of the national representatives of four mainline churches (in New Zealand) is concerned that a government bill at select committee stage will unduly penalise domestic purposes beneficiaries who do not establish paternity of their children.

The Churches Agency on Social Issues (CASI) said in their submission to the Social Services Select Committee on the Social Security (Social Assistance) Amendment Bill that there is no objective reason to take a “penalising” approach to such a complex social phenomenon

A clause in the Bill means a sole parent beneficiary will face an extra $6 per week deduction from their benefit if they do not name the other parent of the child. The reduction is additional to the current $22 deduction already imposed on their benefits.

CASI considers the clause as an example of “the sins of the parents being visited on the children, which runs counter to both natural and Biblical justice.”

The Bill aims to amend the Social Security Act 1964 by further encouraging sole parent beneficiaries to identify the other parent of the child under section 70A requirements. The financial penalty will apply for those who fail or refuse to meet section 70A requirements after they have been given the opportunity to reconsider their decision.

Two exemptions to the financial penalties, additional to those already in the Act, have been welcomed by CASI.

They include lenience where the child and parent are at risk of violence after taking steps to fulfil their requirements, and where compelling circumstances preclude the collecting of child support.

CASI believe it would be better to find out why the number of domestic purposes beneficiaries who do not name the liable parent has increased. “There is no indication of any research as to why this is happening, and none of those speaking during the First Reading produced any insights into the reasons why the numbers are growing.”

CASI consists of members appointed by the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Associated Churches of Christ, and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), in New Zealand.

By Peter Veugelaers.

Published 2005, Challenge Weekly.


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