Rape victim has benefit docked by WINZ

A young rape victim who became pregnant to her attacker had her benefit docked by Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) - because she refused to name the father of her child.

But after a lengthy battle, the government agency has finally admitted it got it wrong.

The woman - known only as Laura for privacy reasons - had the money deducted even though the law provides an exemption to the sanction if the child is born of sexual assault or incest.

The details of Laura's first pregnancy don't make for a pretty picture.

"I was 13 and I gave birth at 14," she says. "I was sexually assaulted."

She wanted to erase that memory and the culprit's name with it.

"I don't want to put that person on my son's birth certificate cause I don't want him to be known as a product of rape," she says.

But because she wouldn't name the father WINZ started cutting her benefit by $22 a week, rising to $28 a week.

The deductions lasted about two-and-a-half years.

But here is the thing - there's an exemption to the sanction if the pregnancy is the result of a sexual assault.

Laura says she told WINZ more than once that she'd been raped and provided confirmation the matter was before the courts.

Apart from that, she was just 13 at the time of her pregnancy, when the age of consent for sex is sixteen - and yet she was still docked those precious dollars.

For Laura, trying to sort this out for close to a decade has meant more hurt.

"It just brings back painful memories," she says. "But I am glad my son doesn't know anything about it."

But it turns out WINZ did.

More than two months ago she tried again to get the money back - still no result from WINZ. Until Newshub got involved.

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) told us: "a review was initially started in March... (but) was not completed."

That review fired back up when we started asking questions, and then this admission came from MSD: "we got it wrong".

And its records show it "first became aware of the full circumstances of her pregnancy in 2010".

It's sorry for any distress caused.

"They make me feel like I am useless," Laura says.

Beneficiary advocates want all sanctions for not the naming the father dropped, saying the deductions just hurt our poorest children.

As for Laura, she says the almost $4,500 dollars she's due will make a huge difference to her family.

But she's waited so long, she'll save the real celebration until she actually gets it.