A Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) report today shows the need for an urgent review into how mothers are being treated by the Ministry of Social Development, the Green Party said today.
The CPAG report ‘Kathryn’s Story’ tells a heart-breaking story of one woman who has been subjected to more than 15 years of prosecution, jail, losing her children to the state, and debt repayment.
There are still unclear rules around whether single mothers can claim a Sole Parent Support benefit (formerly the Domestic Purposes Benefits) whilst dating and being responsible for children.
“The Government needs to stop hounding women on benefits on dubious grounds, because mothers work hard to ensure that their kids are being taken care of,” Green Party women’s spokesperson Jan Logie said today.
“Punishing mothers by making them repay benefits for doing normal things, like dating, ends up punishing their children.
“We need a welfare system that maintains its integrity, supports the development of healthy relationships and protects children. When you might be investigated and charged with fraud, it is really hard to develop a happy, healthy relationship.
“There must be an urgent review of the treatment of relationships in the welfare system, as the current legal test is unclear and applied differently around the country.
“The Government drags mothers through the courts for small amounts of money, putting huge stress on these families, when it would get a much bigger payoff from pursuing white collar crime and tax evasion instead.
“The mothers that are being pursued in these cases are often struggling, and are busy feeding their kids and trying to keep a roof over their family’s head.
“While the legislation is so unclear, the Government should not seek prison sentences for 'relationship fraud'. The Government needs to urgently resolve this issue.
“The 2001 Joychild Report found as many 15,600 mothers on benefits might have been wrongly treated by Work and Income. The welfare system is clearly broken and the Government is choosing not to fix it,” Ms Logie said.