10 years on the widows benefit

Stuff reports:

Hamilton mother-of-six received an unexpected letter on Christmas Eve – a court summons from her son’s former high school for unpaid fees.

This comes after he was banned from attending his school ball earlier in the year for having outstanding fees, despite being head boy.

Mrs Nonoa is upset that Melville High School is using such a forceful method to recover money she doesn’t have.

The letter, handed to her by a plain-clothes woman at 7.30am on Tuesday, said the school was taking legal action to retrieve $1166.84 in sports and subject fees from 2011 to 2013 and $1133.50 in legal costs – $2300.34 total.

Her son, Johnboi, 18, finished school this year.

He was head boy, captain of the First XV rugby team, a member of the top basketball team and also took part in cultural activities.

The fees Melville High are seeking are for sports and specialist subjects like photography and food technology, not the voluntary school donation.

Mrs Nonoa has been on a widow’s benefit for the past 10 years and said she paid off small amounts when she could afford it.

This to me seems to be the crux of the issue. Of course it is difficult to afford all these additional costs on a widow’s benefit. But we live in 2013, not 1953. Why do we deem it acceptable to remain on a widow’s benefit for 10 years? I’m all for supporting someone whose partner suddenly dies – but maybe for a year, not a decade, and/or until all the kids are at school (as must be the case if you have been on the benefit for 10 years).

Labour abolished any  work-test requirements for the Widow’s Benefit in 2003. If they hadn’t done so, it is likely Mrs Nonoa would have found part-time work, and be in a better position to afford the additional school fees.

As it happens last year the work-test requirements were re-instituted, and the Widow’s Benefit merged into the new Sole Parent Support benefit.

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