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Campaign seeks end to sole mum penalty

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/09/2016

A sanction against sole mothers on a benefit who don't identify the father of their child should be scrapped, according to backers of an online petition.

Child Poverty Action Group says it is supporting an Auckland Action Against Poverty campaign, to be launched on Thursday, seeking changes to the Social Security Legislation Rewrite Bill.

The changes relate to a weekly sanction of $22 or more, per child, on sole mothers not identifying the father of their child, "pushing already struggling families into greater hardship".

The group says about 17,000 children and 13,600 parents are affected by the measure, which in its current form is part of the Social Security Act.

It says women who try to have the sanction lifted are forced to share intimate details of their lives, including histories of violence and abuse, to Work and Income case managers in open plan offices.

They then have to have their stories verified by a lawyer.

CPAG social security spokesman Associate Professor Mike O'Brien describes the sanction as "a punishment for children".

"If child support is paid when a sole mother is on a benefit, it goes to the government and effectively pays toward her benefit - she doesn't receive any extra," he said.

"There is no justification for the mother to receive less benefit because there is no child support being paid. All this effectively does is discriminate against the mothers and harm the children."

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