Scrapping policy may see more dads escaping responsibility

The Herald reports:

A brief liaison with a man she didn’t know cost a young Auckland woman $28 a week off her benefit for two years – but the law imposing the penalty may soon be wiped.

The 21-year-old woman, who said she did not know who was the father of her now 2-year-old daughter, was one of 13,616 sole parents at the end of March who had at least $22 a week docked off their benefits for not naming their children’s fathers.

But the law may be wiped after a lobbying campaign which has won the support of Labour, Green, NZ First and Maori Party MPs who together hold 60 of Parliament’s 121 seats.

The trouble with scrapping this law is it then provides an incentive for arrangements where the mother doesn’t name the father, so he can avoid paying child support to IRD.

It is harsh on some people who genuinely do not know the father, but if you scrap it I predict you’ll see a significant increase in arrangements where the father is known, but not named so he can avoid responsibility.

At the end of March 10,848 parents were being docked for one child, 2189 for two children, 476 for three children, 82 for four children and 21 for five or more children – affecting a total of at least 17,087 children.

So there are 103 people who say that they have four or five children, and they don’t know the father of any of them??

I’m almost certain they do know. It is just that they are better off with the father paying them say $40 a week not to name them than the father having to pay say $120 a week to IRD for child support payments. Far easier to leave the bill with the taxpayer.

The law allows for exemptions in cases of violence or where there is “insufficient evidence available to establish who is in law the other parent”.

Jane said she was not told about the exemption until she met an AAAP advocate. She was referred to a community law centre where a lawyer wrote to Work and Income explaining why she couldn’t name her child’s father.

Work and Income then cancelled the $28 penalty and a month ago paid her back pay for the full amount she had lost over two years.

It sounds like the current law is flexible enough then. I’m against providing an incentive for fathers not to be held responsible.

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