Living arrangements are complicated, as is the test to see if a relationship is legally in the nature of marriage. Often beneficiaries are not in a marriage-like relationship as recognised by MSD, even when they think they might be.
The Ministry of Social Development’s proposal to check for the presence of partners at the homes of all sole parents is a waste of government time and money which will only increase the harassment of families already under surveillance stress, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.
“Living arrangements are complicated, as is the test to see if a relationship is legally in the nature of marriage. Often beneficiaries are not in a marriage-like relationship as recognised by MSD, even when they think they might be.
“No contractor on a Big Brother visit could possibly ascertain whether fraud is being committed. Extra shoes at the front door don’t prove a marriage-like relationship, nor does an extra toothbrush, photographs of couples, nor even DNA samples from the bedroom.
“Currently only 1 in 10 of those investigated for fraud are prosecuted. This proposal will add to the thousands of lives unnecessarily raked over the coals – beneficiaries, their families and even flatmates – all in the name of being 'helpful'.
“Rather than seeing sole parents – predominantly women - as people who may have escaped from violent relationships, been deserted by partners, or that are doing the hard important work of raising our future generation, this proposal presumes them to be fraudsters attempting to cheat the system.
“Borrows’ claim that these visits are intended to be helpful and check that people have what they need would be laughable if this wasn't such an insidious attack on beneficiaries.
“It's not as if these contractors are turning up with a food grant or temporary additional support application – the kind of help sole parents are likely to require when struggling to provide for their families” says Ms Thompson.
“All one need to do to know how much of a failure this new proposal will be is to look to the not so distant past where fraud investigators created the 'million dollar club' to celebrate those whose prosecutions reached this amount, or the findings of an MSD review of overpayments established due to the nature of marriage which resulted in the reversal of over $35 million of debt wrongly held to be owed by almost 3000 beneficiaries.”
Auckland Action Against Poverty will be holding a picket to draw attention to this and the National Government's other failed welfare policies at the National Party Christmas BBQ this Sunday the 8th of December from 6pm, Auckland Grammar, Gate 4 Mountain Road, Epsom.