Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cunliffe promises to ease up on prosecuting benefit fraud

In a lengthy interview with Gordon Campbell, David Cunliffe gave the following answer:

Campbell: We’ve got ten minutes. I haven’t asked about your welfare policy, so I’ll make it specific. We all oppose fraud. Does Labour oppose the government’s new welfare fraud policy whereby the partners of welfare fraudsters will be criminally liable for the fraud, and for the repayment of the entire amount – and not simply for the amount from which they might have indirectly benefitted. If re-elected will Labour retain this provision or scrap it ?

Cunliffe: Scrap it.
Here's associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows speaking about the proposals:

This bill deals with one particularly troubling aspect of welfare fraud, which we refer to as relationship fraud. Relationship fraud is when someone is receiving a benefit that is dependent on them being single, such as a sole parent support—the old DPB—yet they are in a marriage-type relationship. In this case, their relationship is not simply part of their private life; they are being given money by the taxpayer based on that fact. By failing in their obligations to tell the Ministry of Social Development or even lying to hide their relationship, they continue to receive money that they are not entitled to. The reality of this offending is that it can occur only when the partner is present, but it takes two to tango. The current law means that the beneficiary, usually the woman, is held accountable for her fraud, while the partner often gets off scot-free. We say this is wrong. This bill will create a new offence to hold those partners to account.
These changes strike a careful balance. They recognise that new relationships are never simple. When a partner is genuinely unaware of the fraud, they will not be liable. But if the partner knew about the fraud or turned a blind eye to it, they will be held to account for their part in the crime. I want to make it clear that these changes will not disadvantage women in a violent relationship. Ministry of Social Development investigators are extensively trained to deal sensitively with violent relationships, and the law on this point is clear that violence in a relationship will often mean it is not, for welfare purposes, a relationship in the nature of marriage. The last thing we want to do is to remove the financial lifeline that might help a battered woman extract herself from that situation. These changes will not remove this protection.

The reasons why liability for the "entire amount" is incurred are explained here.

You don't see me making a big fuss about welfare fraud. That's because so much 'legitimate' welfare receipt is 'illegitimate' in my mind anyway. Welfare abuse, welfare misuse.... it's all a rort. Welfare is claimed by thousands of people who would in the past have made their own way in life. Lawful entitlement does not confer moral entitlement.

But an intention to scrap this proposed  legislation shows which side Cunliffe is on. And it isn't the taxpayer's.


S.Beast said...

Cunliffe clearly hasn't spoken to beneficiary advocates. Almost all support the law. This is because the partner will know when fraud is being committed, say nothing (!), and then a year or more will pass. At this point the relationship may have broken down or become abusive, so the partner will threaten the one who committed welfare fraud with reporting.

Anonymous said...

Lindsay, in this scenario no one is on the side of the taxpayer as most people benefit from our Welfare System - loopholes and all - and then have the audacity to try & take the moral high ground against those they consider to be the real bludgers,

As you so eloquently say "lawful entitlement does not confer moral entitlement" yet that is what most presume.

This is why posts like this will never get mainstream attraction & why nothing will ever change; the dots are all there to be joined re welfare vs child poverty & abuse & a stagnant middle class yet no one has the guts to join them....other than you that is!

~ unsol