Benefit sanctions causing child poverty - advocate

  • 29/04/2018

Beneficiary advocates say the Government has no choice but to foot the hefty bill for removing sanctions if it wants to tackle child poverty.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said on Saturday sanctions on solo parents who don't name the other parent will be gone sometime in the next three years.

"That sanction needs to be dumped," she told Newshub Nation.

Around 17,000 children live in families affected by the sanctions, which see solo parents docked up to $28 a week per child. It'll cost an estimated $95 million over four years if the sanctions are scrapped.

Beneficiary advocate Karen Pattie says the penalty has to go, regardless of the price tag.

"When you take away the sanctioned amount that they apply to women who won't name the father - unless they have a court order or there's domestic violence - the fallout is child poverty. That's all there is to it."

Ms Pattie says other things that need to change include policies that target sick people.

"They need to identify the high areas as far as people who are medically very unwell and the process they have to go through. It's a matter of identifying the most vulnerable, and working backwards from there."

Ms Pattie says it's sad a lot of her terminally ill clients will have died waiting for the system to swing in their favour. She says even chemotherapy patients have been expected to look for work.

Ms Sepuloni defended the slow rate of change, telling Newshub Nation: "[The Ministry of Social Development] is a huge machine. It's like this massive jumbo jet that's been set on a certain direction for the last nine years.

"To expect me to able to put the brake on mid-air and turn that jumbo jet around immediately is a little bit unreasonable."

She's setting up an expert advisory panel to go over the options, before making any major decisions.