Almost 13,000 parents with dependent children have had their benefits cut for failing work tests in the first 2 years after sole parents first had to look for work.
Data released to the Child Poverty Action Group under the Official Information Act shows 1310 parents had benefits cut for failing work tests in the first three months after sole parents with children aged 6 and over were required to look for part-time work from September 2010. A further 5,074 parents' benefits were suspended or cancelled for failing work tests in 2011 and 6,418 last year.
Most parents then met their obligations quickly enough to have their benefits restored, but 157 had benefits formally suspended or cancelled in the first three months of the new regime.
The action group says the tough system risks "entrenching a separate and unequal class of manifestly disadvantaged children".
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"It overlooks the needs of disabled, sick or traumatised children, and it assumes that the state knows better than parents what is best for their children," the group said.
Since last October, parents who have another baby while on the benefit have to go back to work one year after giving birth if their next youngest child is five or over. From July 15 this year parents may also have benefits cut if they have children aged three or over who are not in preschool or school, not enrolled with a GP or not up to date with core Well Child checks.
A report by action group analyst Donna Wynd found parents in Northland and the Waikato were three times as likely to have their benefits cut as those in Taranaki, Central Districts and Nelson. Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said no parent had had their benefit cut for more than eight weeks.
Paying the price
Year / Number
• 2010 (Oct-Dec) / 1,310
• 2011 / 5,074
• 2012 / 6,418
• Total: 12,802