Grieving dad struggling to get help

By Simon Collins

A grieving father whose partner died after childbirth faces a financial crisis because of the way Government agencies have treated him.

Auckland City Hospital admitted last week that the death of Renee Bayliss on January 26 was preventable.

She haemorrhaged after giving birth, but hospital staff did not start giving her blood transfusions until almost three hours after the birth, despite being asked to have cross-matched blood ready.

The baby, Allix, survived and is being cared for by her father, Nick Blackley.

But Mr Blackley has faced a series of obstacles from official agencies to get his entitlements to paid parental leave, family tax credits and accident compensation.

He has survived by running down his savings and cashing in his superannuation. But when that money has gone, he will have to sell his house.

"We can't believe that it's been 4 months and that the level of care that's being provided by Government departments is just pathetic, really. I'm still lost for words," he said.

His mother-in-law, Wendy Bayliss, who has commuted between her Napier home and Auckland to help out, said people did not realise what someone in Mr Blackley's situation had to deal with.

"One of the hardest things I had to see or listen to was Nick trying to explain to people that Renee couldn't fill in these forms. She was dead, and they must have known that."

Mr Blackley said Inland Revenue cancelled Ms Bayliss' paid parental leave when she died.

"This left me $320 a week worse off from day one when we needed money the most."

The department's group manager for assistance, David Udy, said most fathers whose partners died chose to take the remaining parental leave themselves, giving them the same entitlements as their dead partners had. But Mr Blackley could not afford to do this because the maximum rate of paid parental leave is only about $320 a week after tax _ less than half his mortgage payments.

His employers, the police, gave him two months' sick leave on full pay but then he had to return to work.

Meanwhile, Inland Revenue reinstated the parental leave payments to Ms Bayliss' account six weeks after her death, but paid them into an account which the family cannot use until her estate is settled.

Mr Blackley also applied to Inland Revenue for Working for Families tax credits, but the forms were sent back to him because he had not filled in details of Ms Bayliss' income.

"This was despite IRD being fully aware that she was dead," he said.

He was entitled to accident compensation because of Ms Bayliss' death, but he and the Weekend Herald were given inconsistent information about his entitlements.

ACC chief operating officer Gerard McGreevy said Mr Blackley was entitled to 80 per cent of Ms Bayliss' former salary.

"In a case such as this, the spouse of the person who has passed away receives 60 per cent of her earnings and 20 per cent is allocated to their child," he said.

Because the child was under 16, her portion was sent to her father.

But when the Weekend Herald forwarded letters from ACC staff giving different information, the agency's communications adviser, Stephanie Julian, said they had made a mistake and Mr Blackley's entitlement was only 64 per cent of Ms Bayliss' salary.

National MP Dr Jackie Blue, who has helped the family deal with the bureaucracy, said each agency seemed to work in isolation.

- NZ Herald

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