Anne Tolley apologises to rape victim over benefit docking
There's been a significant development in a story about a rape victim who had her benefit docked because she wouldn't reveal the name of her child's father.
Laura became pregnant to her attacker at 13. She wanted to erase that memory and the culprit's name with it.
But because she wouldn't name the father Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) started cutting her benefit by $22 a week, rising to $28 a week - even though the law provides an exemption to the sanction if the child is born of sexual assault or incest.
Now, Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley has apologised to the women.
"It is clear that in this situation Work and Income did not apply the law correctly and I appreciate this was extremely upsetting and distressing for the young woman and I sincerely apologise," Ms Tolley said in Parliament on Thursday.
"As Work and Income have said themselves they got it very wrong in this case. While there is a legal obligation to apply for child support and name the other parent, the law explicitly lays out circumstances where a person does not have to do this and this includes if a child is conceived as a result of rape."
Green MP Jan Logie questioned whether the minister supported the Ministry of Social Development policy to dock the benefits of single parents who would not name the other parent of their child.
"The reasons why parents don't name the other biological parent are often intensely personal and private and frankly none of the Government's business," Ms Logie said.
Around 15,000 women have their benefits reduced because they have not named the father.
Ms Tolley said she has asked the Ministry of Social Development to research the effectiveness of the policy, and said the requirement is only that they name the father of their child.
"This particular provision has been around for decades and the intent behind the policy is to encourage the other parent to take responsibility and contribute to the cost of raising their own child."