On May 3rd, following the release of the Welfare Expert Advisory Groups report, Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni finally committed to lifting the Sanction on Sole Mothers, a policy which has been depriving single parents of money they need to support their children just because their fathers aren’t named on the birth certificate. This benefit sanction is harmful and punitive, and its removal is long overdue. Minister Sepuloni announced that the sanction would be officially repealed on the 1st of April 2020. But the removal of just one harmful sanction isn’t enough.
There are many destructive and ineffective sanctions that remain in our welfare legislation, with no current government promise of their removal. Sanctions like Section 60GAE punish parents just for having another child while receiving a benefit, while section 60H reduces a person’s benefit when they leave a job regardless of the situation, solely on the word of their employer. Other sanctions deprive those with health issues like drug addictions through invasive tests, or remove the benefits of those that don’t need extensive obligations to demonstrate an active search for employment, even if the beneficiary isn’t suited to employment.
The Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s report, which seeks to restore dignity to Social Security in New Zealand, has specifically recommended the removal of many sanctions beyond just the Sanction on Sole Mothers. We’ve seen both in practice and in studies that sanctions don’t work. They fail to accomplish what they’re intended to, just as the Ministry admitted in regards to the sanction on sole mothers, only hurting already vulnerable beneficiaries. We at Auckland Action Against Poverty are calling on the Government to seriously commit to the improvement of our welfare system, and to start by ending all sanctions.