A solo mum who wants to study so she can get off welfare says she has had to turn to prostitution to pay for childcare and transport to the course.
Tania Wysocki, a 38-year-old mother of two preschoolers at Paerata near Pukekohe, advertised herself on a website two weeks ago in a last-ditch effort to raise the money she needs for childcare when she starts a veterinary nursing course at Unitec in Mt Albert next week.
She wrote to Prime Minister John Key two days after Christmas saying she could see no other way to do the course, which she hopes will help her get off the domestic purposes benefit (DPB). Mr Key's office passed the letter on to Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, who has yet to respond.
Work and Income's Pukekohe office told Ms Wysocki in writing that she could get only nine hours a week of subsidised childcare for the fulltime course, plus a one-off $500 loan towards the weekly $72.20 cost of a 10-trip student train pass from Pukekohe to Mt Albert.
Yesterday, after Herald inquiries, Auckland regional social development commissioner Isabel Evans said Ms Wysocki had now provided further information and was actually entitled to up to 50 hours a week of subsidised childcare. She may need at least 36 hours. "We regret the delay but she will be able to begin the academic year with the correct childcare subsidies," Ms Evans said.
But the subsidy will cover only part of Ms Wysocki's childcare fees, and the $500 loan falls far short of her transport costs for a year, so studying will still cost her about $113 a week more out of her own pocket than staying at home on the benefit.
She has had inquiries to her online advert but has not taken any clients yet and has been hoping she won't have to.
"I'm sort of tossed up because I think at least with that [prostitution], if someone is available to look after the kids, I could run off and do one client and then I'll be fine. I could still study and still spend time with my kids."
She said she would not have had to face that choice if the training incentive allowance was still paid for higher-level courses. The allowance pays sole parents up to $102 a week for childcare and travel costs for courses, but was restricted in 2009 to courses at level 3 or below on the qualifications framework.
"Paula Bennett did all those courses, but she's stopping me from doing all the ones that she did. It's just not fair," Ms Wysocki said.
Ms Wysocki worked for 15 years in the horse stud industry before having her first child, Catherine, almost five years ago. She went on the DPB when she and her partner broke up three years ago. She went back to work part-time doing night shifts on a stud farm, but was $60 a week worse off after paying for childcare.
She has enrolled in the veterinary nursing course hoping it will help her get better-paid work with more child-friendly hours to allow her to look after Catherine and 20-month-old Breanna.
They live at Paerata to be near Catherine's father, who helps with some childcare, but child support from the children's fathers doesn't help Ms Wysocki because it is kept by Inland Revenue to offset the cost of her benefit.
Local National MP Dr Paul Hutchison made representations for her to Work and Income but could not get more than the nine hours of childcare and $500 loan.
She then complained to Labour MP Jacinda Ardern and Green MP Jan Logie. Ms Logie travelled from Wellington to visit her on Tuesday and is paying for Ms Wysocki to fly to Wellington to talk to media today.
"It's taken going to a local MP, writing to the Prime Minister, being referred to the minister, and going to two other MPs and then the Herald, to get what she was entitled to," Ms Logie said.
Income per week
Accom. supplement: $131.00
Family tax credits: $149.23
Childcare subsidy: $138.24
Loan ($500/30 weeks): $16.67
Petrol, car repairs etc: $67.00
Car & other insurances: $22.73
Debt repayments: $12.50
Christmas club: $5.00
Train pass: $72.20