Friday, August 16, 2013

90 percent of teenage parents on welfare haven't met obligations

From August 20, 2012 teenage parents requiring financial assistance were put on the Young Parent Payment (YPP).

At the end of March 2013 there were 1,346 YPP recipients.

56 percent were Maori.

6 percent were male.

87 percent were living in the North Island.

Each YPP recipient has a Youth Service provider who manages their benefit. Up to $50 a week is paid as a personal allowance.  This is a relatively small amount of cash compared to the previous system whereby the beneficiary would receive all of their benefit in cash.

The parent can earn up to $200 weekly without it affecting their benefit however.

As well, they can earn incentive payments to increase their weekly benefit.

For the sake of clarity the following is the OIA information MSD provided:

Parenting incentive payment

A young person can earn the parenting incentive payment after three months of engaging with a service provider if:

- they are receiving the Young Parent Payment
- they have participated in and completed a parenting education programme
- their dependent child/ren are enrolled with a primary health organisation
- their dependent child/ren aged 5 years or under are up-to-date with their Well Child/Tamariki Ora checks
- their child/ren under 5 years attends an approved early childhood education programme or is placed in other suitable childcare while the young person is in education, training, work-based learning or part-time work.
This poses the question, do they need to meet all these requirements to get the incentive payment? Here's the information provided at the youth service website:


You can get a further $10 a week if you meet all your parenting requirements and have regular talks with your Youth Service provider for three months. Once you are getting the extra payments you need to keep up the good work. You will lose the incentive payments if you don’t.
So all requirements must be met. (There are two other distinct incentives as well - Education and Budgeting.)

At the end of March only 139 people on the YPP were receiving incentive payments. One in ten.

Interpreted another way, 90 percent of teenage parents receiving YPP are not meeting basic parenting obligations.

Additionally, I understood these obligations had to be met to avoid sanctions. Here's the youth service advice:


To help you as a parent, you have to complete a parenting course. Your Youth Service provider will find a suitable course for you.
It is important that your child can get medical care when they need it so you have to enrol them at a Primary Health Organisation medical centre or doctor.
You also have to register your child (or children) under five with a Well Child provider, like Plunket, and make sure they have regular check-ups with this provider until they are five years old.
While you are in education, training or doing part time work your child has to go to an early childhood education programme or be in suitable childcare.

What happens if you don’t meet your obligations?

The first and second time you don’t meet your obligations your weekly allowance will be suspended and any extra incentive payments you have earned will be stopped. You have four weeks to put it right. If you still have not done what is required your ongoing access to the Young Parent Payment will be looked at.

Which leads to a further question (as my OIA requests inevitably do). How many people on YPP have been sanctioned?

(If you are wondering why my data is months old, I requested it on 26 April 2013 and finally received a reply on 12 August, 2013).


Brendan said...

Hi Lindsay

There are very few people in New Zealand who are prepared to wade through the detail and the process required to hold the Government to account on anything of importance. My eyes would glaze over after the first five minutes or less, so I just want to take a moment to applaud your willingness to take on this task on behalf of all tax payers, and also your tenacity in holding our 'social services' feet to the fire. What point is there in having sanctions if no one is going to implement them?

I doubt you will get an OBE from any Government for these services to New Zealanders, but in my thinking at least you deserve one. Your accurate and detailed research in this area is second to none.

All the best.


S. Beast said...

Could be that there is a delay in processing that means the additional $10 hasn't yet been paid. I hear that Life Unlimited take around 3-4 weeks to put someone on a YP or whatever it is now. Who knows what other service providers are like?

Could also be that 9/10 young parents find regular engagement with the service provider - whatever that entails - is a tedious bore, and very much like dealing with disapproving parents. Or quite possibly this engagement is a much lower priority than taking care of children which most teenagers would find quite grueling I imagine.

It would be great if they could be surveyed to find out why the uptake on this was so shockingly low. Clearly the policy isn't working as designed.

Also you say that they can earn a whopping $200 a week without it affecting their benefit - that is much, much higher than other benefits. I might be reading the rate chart wrong but MAP gives the cut out rate for a sole parent as $258.00 gross which I take to mean at that level there will be no core benefit left to abate OR that with IWTC it is no longer financially optimal to remain on a benefit.

Actually...a ridiculous possibility just crossed my mind. Since MAP doesn't indicate the additional $10 payment for compliance, is it possible that 90% are just not being given the extra incentive payments as a matter of course? Stranger things happen in MSD.

Thanks for the info Lindsay.

Anonymous said...

The question isn't why 90% of kid-bludgers aren't getting their $10 per week top-up --- they question is why they are getting anything at all.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

This is the advice from the website linked to:

"You can earn up to just over $200 before your Young Parent Payment is affected."

I too was surprised because as you point out other benefits would be abated more stringently. On DPB there was (for part-time work) a $100 abatement free zone and $577 gross cut-off. I'm looking further at this.

Also older parents don't get the incentives for meeting the obligation. Just the sanctions for not.

I can only go on the information that MSD provides to me which is 139 YPP beneficiaries out of 1346 were receiving an incentive payment at the end of March - just over 6 months into the scheme.

These are not going to be easy kids to deal with. It'd be like herding cats I imagine.But if people drop out of the system because when push comes to shove they don't really need to be on a benefit so be it. That happened to a degree when unemployed people were asked to reapply yearly.

MAP does cover incentives here: