Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Group wants extra $10 a week for sole parents

Just over half of all children in poverty live in sole-parent families. Photo /  Getty Images
Just over half of all children in poverty live in sole-parent families. Photo / Getty Images

More than 80,000 sole parents, caring for 133,000 children, would get an extra $10 a week under a proposal to tackle child poverty.

The final expert group recommends ending the current system where almost all child support paid to sole parents by absent parents - usually fathers - is swallowed up by the Inland Revenue Department to offset the cost of the domestic purposes benefit.

It says passing on child support would make a difference to some of the country's poorest families and would benefit the children by encouraging fathers to stay involved.

"You get more fathers admitting paternity, more fathers who are engaged in their children's lives, more kids getting birthday presents and Christmas presents from their dads," said Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills, who commissioned the report.

The cost would be $159 million a year, or $50 million to $60 million to pass on only $10 a week for each child.

But Dr Wills said there would be huge offsetting benefits.

"It's hard to put a financial value on children receiving a Christmas present or seeing their dad."

Just over half of all children in poverty live in sole-parent families, which have a poverty rate of 45 per cent compared with 14 per cent for two-parent families.

Dr Wills said even $10 a week would be a big help for such families.

"There will be more money for the child, because fathers feel pretty strongly that the money should be spent on the child, not the mum."

He suggested that the accommodation supplement could be cut for people without children to help pay for it. The report says 58 per cent of accommodation supplements are paid to people without children, 21 per cent of whom are boarders.

"So what we are saying is that if you are going to spend $1.2 billion a year, that's real money, and we should use that to the best effect to mitigate the effects of child poverty and overcrowding."

- NZ Herald

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