A domestic purposes beneficiary who is considering prostitution to pay for childcare and transport costs to attend a Unitec study course receives the equivalent of a $43,000 salary a year, Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows told Parliament yesterday.
She was also entitled to 20 hours of free early childhood education.
"I think most New Zealanders would find that an equivalent salary of $43,000 is sufficient, or at least reasonable," Mr Borrows said.
He was commenting on the case of 38-year-old mother of two Tania Wysocki, who appeared in yesterday's Herald saying she had advertised herself on a website as an escort to meet the costs associated with starting a veterinary nursing course next week.
She lives near Pukekohe, and has children aged 4 and 20 months.
She is not entitled to the training incentive allowance, which pays some sole parents who enter study up to $102 a week for childcare and travel costs.
In 2009 the allowance was restricted to courses at level 3 or below on the qualifications framework, not high-level courses such as hers.
Labour MP Jacinda Ardern and Green MP Jan Logie have taken up Ms Wysocki's case on the grounds that studying for a qualification that should get her off a benefit will cost her $113 a week out of her own pocket.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett used a training incentive allowance to study at university when she was a sole parent.
The Green Party flew Ms Wysocki down to Parliament and she sat in the public gallery yesterday while questions were asked about her.
Ms Logie asked Mr Borrows if he thought it was fair that she was reluctantly considering sex work to cover her costs.
Mr Borrows: "I find it very difficult to accept that somebody is forced into prostitution in order to study.
"People may have to choose between earning an income through work and studying.
"There are no easy options for a solo parent but there is considerable support available."
Mr Borrows said half the women on the DPB did not have NCEA level 1 or foundation course skills.
The Government had directed the training incentive allowance towards them "to get the best results for the investment of the taxpayer's money".
Ms Wysocki said last night she had no idea how much she was paid a year.
"I would like to see him live on what I have to live on and see how much he copes with it."
What she wanted was a short-term investment in herself to get her off the DPB for the rest of her working life.
She said she would definitely do the course and would probably start to accept clients.
"That's where the money will have to come from to get to Unitec," Ms Wysocki said.
Asked if she was worried about the effect of the publicity on her children, she said they were young enough for it not to matter.
"When they are older it will probably be long forgotten."