Pregnant mum-of-four working 100-hour weeks to get by says she has 'no choice but to break the law'

A Bay of Plenty mother-of-four says she has "no choice but to break the law" as she works 100-hour weeks to pay off debts and give her children a better life.

Rachel*, who is pregnant with her fifth child, works two jobs to provide for her children because her migrant partner is on a visitor visa and isn't allowed to work here.

However one of these jobs - as an overnight security guard - requires her to leave her children under the supervision of her partner several nights a week.

That's a problem because a court order has banned him from being alone with the kids due to abuse allegations made against him by their father, which Rachel says are completely false.

She says while she doesn't want to break the law, she has to in order to put meals on the table for her kids.

"My situation is difficult and complicated," Rachel told Newshub.

"I have no choice but to break the law and leave my kids with my partner during the night so I can take up another job... Oranga Tamariki would step in if I didn't have a second job."

Rachel receives the Childcare Subsidy from Work and Income, which pays for childcare for one of her children and nine hours a week for another, and is a recipient of the Working For Families (WFF) tax credit. She is also living in Kāinga Ora public housing.

But she's frustrated with the lack of additional support she receives, saying it's not enough for someone in her situation and arguing those on the benefit lead a much easier life than she does despite being on less money.

Rachel gets $1225 weekly after tax from her primary job as a courier driver and WFF tax credits combined, but says she just scrapes by depending on how many shifts she gets for her security job, for which she's on a casual contract.

About $500 goes into daycare a week, and she pays $130 for her Kāinga Ora rental home, $300 for food, $60 for power, $150 for fuel for her courier job and $50 for phone and home broadband - for a total of $1190.

She's also laden with debt, which she has to pay off.

The difference between this and her guaranteed income is just $35 a week, which doesn't leave her much wiggle room should things go wrong.

"We don't splash out on things because we can't afford to," Rachel says.

Rachel says she's often tempted to quit working so she can go on the benefit and spend more time with her children.

However she's been warned by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) that if she did she'd face a 13-week 'stand down' period, during which she wouldn't be able to receive the benefit.

She says the MSD should relax on the red tape so people like her aren't having to push so hard just to get by.

"I think rather than going by the book, they should have common sense and have a heart… Really I think they should just help me a little bit," Rachel said.

"It's nothing against them, but some [beneficiaries] aren't even doing anything and getting help. And then there's people like me, I'm really working hard to make it work and I don't want to quit my job.

"I want to keep working, I don't want to go on the benefit. But they're just not really giving me any options, and I can't keep doing these stupid hours forever."

Fiona Carter-Giddings, MSD's general manager of welfare system and income support policy, told Newshub that while she didn't have full information on Rachel's current situation, it's likely she was "financially better off than she would be on a benefit".

"But we recognise the toll that working 100 hours a week could have on her wellbeing and family," she went on. "We would encourage anyone who needs assistance to come talk to us about how we can help them."

Rachel has requested more assistance from Work and Income and is awaiting the result of her partner's work visa application, which is currently being processed. If the application is successful and her partner can find employment, it'll allow Rachel to reduce her hours.

But for now, Rachel is still working to give her family a better life. She says she has dreams to become debt-free, buy a house and give her kids opportunities she never had.

*Rachel is a pseudonym.