Benefit sanctions leaves solo mum to make painful choices for baby

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

A solo mum who can't name her baby's father has been forced to make painful choices in order to feed her baby.

The Sole Parent benefit is docked if a parent can't or won't name the other parent, unless they apply for an exemption.

But there's no evidence the sanction actually encourages parents to pay child support and instead, it's putting families at risk of long-term welfare dependency.

Sarah* told Newshub for more than five years, $28 a week has been taken from her benefit because she can't name the father.

"I honestly think it's sick, it makes me feel ill. I don't see adults suffering from this, I see children not getting a chance."

It may seem like only a small amount of money, but it's forced her to make tough decisions.

"I was at the supermarket... and I was standing there going, 'Do I choose toilet paper or do I choose washing powder' ... 'Do I cry and break down here or do I wait until I go home and put my baby to bed, and then cry when he can't hear me anymore'," she said.

"When you're living below the poverty line to start with and you're made to survive off something so small, $28 can make a huge difference - not only financially, but there are some elements there where I could have felt like a whole human being, which would have been nice."

Sarah said being poor can make people innovative and "like a magician".

"You can make $28 stretch so ridiculously far," she said.

Sarah is one of 13,500 solo parents being docked under the sanctions. More than 17,000 children are being affected by it.

When Newshub asked to see any proof the Government had that the sanctions are helping wayward parents pay their child support, the Ministry of Social Development refused.

But now, the Ombudsman has ordered the documents be released - showing "insufficient evidence to assess the policy's effectiveness".