Single mothers on how the ‘mystery dad’ penalty harms their families

As part of the ongoing We are Beneficiaries project highlighting the realities of life on a benefit, artist Sam Orchard tells the stories of women who have refused to name their baby’s father – and been punished for their decision.

One of the most harmful of WINZ’S many sanctions against beneficiaries is section 70A, which punishes single parents who refuse to identify the other parent. This little piece of work results in a $22 deduction, per child, every week – and a further $6 deduction if the information has not been supplied after 13 weeks.

Recently, Radio New Zealand reported that there have been warnings to Labour, who have made a commitment to repeal the penalty, that doing so could incentivise single parents to rip off the system. National’s social development spokesperson Louise Upston doubled down, then did a Missy Elliot and flipped-it-and-reversed-it, when she said that “vulnerable women will be threatened with all sorts of things not to name the father”.

Say what?!

NOT taking away money from the county’s poorest parents is dangerous for them? It’s quite an impressive feat, in the age of Jacinda-child-poverty-is-my-jam-ania, to argue that it’s in the best interest of parents (i.e. people with children), to punish them financially (making said parents – and those children – poorer).

Since Louise Upston cares deeply about the “vulnerable women” whom she thinks will be endangered by lifting this sanction, we assume she will also be interested to hear what life is like with it. So, dear Louise, let’s take a journey…

This is Sarah. Sarah’s baby’s father refused to sign the birth certificate:

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And say hello to Julia, who didn’t name the father, knowing full well he would never pay child support (you know, the reason why the sanction was put in in the first place):

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And then there are the parents who are not believed even when they do tell WINZ:

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or MJ:

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Alternatively, when parents are believed, the paperwork can still get lost, and it still takes time for the waiver to be processed, and when you live week-to-week for your beneficiary entitlement, $22 (PER CHILD) is a big, fucking deal:

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Finally Louise, we’d like to leave you with one final story, about a single mother’s aspirations for the welfare system:

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