Where to for Beneficiary families now that the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill has passed its Third Reading

Families Children and Parents Together

There have been some changes to the Bill since the First Reading back in September 2012. It is important if you are on a benefit that you understand what the law does and does not say so that you are not forced by WINZ to do something that the law does not require of you.

What does the law say?

1. It is compulsory for 3 and 4 year olds to be attending an ECE—this ECE can be in your home with your own children. If you are keeping your children home you will have to use a Government approved programme for an undisclosed amount of time each week which will be taken out to 15 hours a week sometime in the future.

2. You can keep your 5 year olds at home doing whatever you like with them—just like before this Bill passed.

3. Your 6 year olds and above have to attend school or you have to get an exemption for them—just like before the Bill passed.

4. You will have to enrol your children with a GP.

5. Your children will have to complete the core WellChild/Tamariki Ora checks

6. If your youngest is 5 you (mothers) will have to work for 15 hours a week.

7. If your youngest is 14 you (mothers) will have to work for 30 hours a week.

8. From the time you go onto a benefit until the end of that year the social obligations do not apply – this also applies to everyone going onto the benefit this year.


What does the law NOT say?

1. You do not have to send your child to an ECE facility.

2. The Bill has not set the minimum weekly hours for using the Government approved curriculum in your home. At the moment you can determine that time at less than 15 hours a week. It will be extended to 15 hours at a later date.

3. The law says nothing about 5 year olds.

4. You don’t have to visit the GP—(have to be enrolled with a GP)

5. Compulsory immunisations are not in the Bill, and Paula Bennett was not able to include them in the Bill after the Second Reading. So you do not have to get your preschoolers immunised.

6. Mothers have to work 15 or 30 hours a week but it does not have to be out of your home and there is no money value on it in the Bill. One WINZ worker told a beneficiary mother (before the Bill passed) that she could sit at home watching TV while she knitted for 15 hours a week.

7. The Bill does not say that you have to go to “Getting Work Ready Meetings/Training” before your youngest is 5. So if you get a letter when your youngest is still only 2 or even younger (I heard of someone getting the letter when her youngest was only 6 months old) then hold the WINZ workers to the law. You only have to be working 15 hours a week once your youngest turns 5—not before.

8. You can home educate your children and work 15 or 30 hours a week. Paula Bennett said that you would not be able to, but if you are working from home then it is possible—hard, unfair etc. but it is possible. More on this later with ideas etc.


My recommendations

1. We don’t know how the sanctions will work. If you are on the Benefit when this Bill comes into effect we don’t know how hard or easy it will be to get off the benefit if you are not obeying the social obligations or work requirements. You might be able to say that you don’t want to receive the Benefit any more and that will be the end of it. But on the other hand the sanctions are nasty. If after three warnings over 6-8 weeks you haven’t fulfilled the social obligations you will lose half your benefit and be subject to “intensified case management support”—in other words more frequent meetings with WINZ to make you comply with the social obligations. According to the MSD’s Welfare Reform Paper E, “There are operational processes in place for clients to be referred to CYF or fraud investigation if they continue on a fifty percent sanction.” This means that parents who continue refusing to fulfill their social obligations after losing half their benefit may be reported to CYF or investigated for fraud.

2.       So my recommendations would be if at all possible to get off the Benefit before this bill comes into effect in July 2013 especially if you have no intentions to teach the Government approved curriculum to your 3 and 4 year olds and do not intend to work the required 15 or 30 hours a week.

3.       1 Timothy 5 talks about older children looking after their mothers and younger siblings and leaving true widows for the Church to look after them.

  • · If at all possible get your older children or the father of your children or extended family to help/support you and your children.
  • · If this fails and your family can’t help then go to your Church and talk to them. It is time for the local Church to take up their responsibilities to help the widow and those in need and not leave it up to the Government any longer.
  • · If you are not on a benefit then please consider providing the needy families you know with this help and support as appropriate.


MSD and Home Schooling

Different WINZ offices have been operating differently. Some have been compassionate and others have been obnoxious towards home educators. The MSD (Ministry of Social Development) have told me that they want to have the same policy toward home educators across the country. They want the WINZ workers to be compassionate not obnoxious. Some WINZ workers are against home education. They don’t see why they have to put their children in school and have to go out to work while the Government pays home educating mothers to stay home with their children—they forget that it is a choice that they made. They forget that the government pays for their children’s school and ECE. They ignore the fact that home educators save the government money when they keep their children home. So they try to make things very hard for home educators by saying they have to send their children to ECE and go out to work.

We have had some conflicting information from Paula Bennett about what the MSD policy is for home educators. In a letter from her in October she said that beneficiaries who want to homeschool their children will have to provide “proof of restricted circumstances that makes their child’s attendance at school unreasonable” as well as a Ministry of Education (MoE) exemption certificate, in order to fulfill the Bill’s requirement for children to be attending school. However, Parliamentary documents such as the Select Committee’s report confirm that an MoE exemption is all you need in order to fulfill the social obligation for school attendance.

The MSD wants to be consistent with how they treat home educators. If your case worker at WINZ is being unfair and intolerant and thinks you should not be homeschooling or keeping your 3 and 4 year old home, then Head Office would like to hear about it. Please ring (04) 916-3300.

Updated 03/10/14

Another thing to remind your case worker at WINZ is that you are saving the Government money by home educating your children. This is what I put in the Home Education Foundation submission:

From the Home Education Foundations submission on the Beneficiary Bill October 2012


6. The Bill will not necessarily save the government money

Single mothers on a benefit

We have heard from a number of mothers that the birth fathers of their children are paying maintenance to Work and Income which is paying for a good portion of their benefit.. If this is so and the mother is mainly relying on the children’s birth father rather than the government, then chasing the mother into employment and forcing the children into preschool will not save much money but will continue to put the family through unnecessary hardship.

Home educators save the government in school costs

According to Ministry of Education statistics, New Zealand spends US$5,582 (approx NZ$6,790.51) per primary school student per year and US$6,994 (approx NZ$8,501.67) per secondary school student per year. This is how much money home educating sole parents save the government annually. A sole parent home educating three children could be saving the government around NZ$22,000 per year, which is more than her benefit. If she has special needs children, she could be saving the government even more: special schools in New Zealand spend up to NZ$160,000 per year on each student.

Meanwhile the cost of a year’s ECE for one child attending 15 hours’ preschool per week is approximately NZ$5112.90 per year, and 75% of ECE funding comes from the government.

We believe that work test requirements should be mindful of, and friendly toward, the monetary and social benefits of home education at all levels, and should seriously consider the possibility of pursuing delinquent fathers for maintenance rather than harrying single mothers into the workplace.


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Related Links:


From the Smiths:


Updated 5 October 2012:  One year on (Craig Smith’s Health) page 7 click here


Needing help for your home schooling journey:



Here are a couple of links to get you started home schooling:




This link is motivational: https://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-what-is-it-all-about/

Exemption Form online: https://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-exemption-form-now-online/

Coming Events: https://hef.org.nz/2013/some-coming-events-for-home-education-during-2013-2/


Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill



One thought on “Where to for Beneficiary families now that the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill has passed its Third Reading

  1. HI, I’m a solo mum on the DPB, I recently had my 2nd child who is now 4 months old. I received a letter that my benefit would be halved if I didn’t attend the next meeting- I received one previous letter concerning “Work Preparations/Obligations”. I contacted the hotline and left a message with my new caseworker that I had only received the one letter I mentioned above. I admitted I thought nothing of the letter as they had sent me these letters when my son was literally 2 weeks old and I thought they had it wrong again. When my case worker contacted me the next morning her FROSTY attitude endured throughout. I was told of the MANY calls and letters sent to me. I informed her my number had recently been changed only to meet with more brisk comments about my obligations to constantly update my contacts and so forth. I understood what she was saying was true and I was in the wrong but it was her attitude that rubbed me the wrong way. She said “look at it from my point of view, everyone I send letters to says they only got the one” she rechecked and verified my address saying “well we have the right address and the letters were sent so one of us is wrong”. Now here’s where my patience ran out. I told her if she was going to statistically imply that it was all my fault then she might as well get onto the point of the call which was to make an appointment rather than pretend this was a polite call. I will be attending this appointment this week. According to the W&I website I am one of those who is obligated to prepare for work or do work based training- which I’m happy to do, I actually have a few places I was planning on looking into. My goal is to work with Oxfam, PETA or Greenpeace as a paid activist and I’d like to study more into this. The W&I website however said:

    To meet your work preparation obligations you need to:

    take reasonable steps to prepare and plan for work
    attend and take part in work preparation interviews, where we ask you to
    attend and take part in work related activities or programmes such as a work assessment, a programme or seminar to increase particular skills or enhance motivation where we ask you to
    attend and take part in any other activity that we require you to (including rehabilitation but not medical treatment, voluntary work or activity in the community).

    I will challenge having to attend these meetings and activities as my son is too young for me to drag around (not to mention my hyper two year old). I am extremely excited to study activism and perhaps a novelist course but I was told to hold off until our meeting. I am also considering home-schooling due to the drop in achievement I have seen in the families around me with the same conditions I have, I don’t want my children to be stuck in the systemic poverty that I sadly see surrounding me. However I am too nervous to bring this issue up till I am assured my benefit will not be halved. I have a feeling this will be a grueling and painful procedure but understandably necessary. I asked her what the “Work preparation obligations” were and was told it would be better discussed at the meeting- the same answer I received from the hotline. I am an easily intimidated person and am now considering moving in with my grandmother and leaving WINZ to alleviate stress and total lack in self confidence due to social view of my life. It would be hard but I have a supportive family. Also was told my children would not be allowed at Kindergartens or school without immunizations? I felt pressured by Plunket and WINZ despite my unease over the information I read. Sadly I regret now having them immunized. Hopefully will be off the benefit if possible so I can freely decide our future.

    Thank you for your information, it’s hard to find a view on these things that isn’t socially warped into making me feel horrible about personal choices. I will do my best to research more into all my rights- I’ve left myself unnamed as I don’t want to be on record for speaking out- I have dealt with these harsh reforms for a few years now so I just needed to vent a little frustration. Thank you for allowing me to do so. Hopefully things go well but I feel a lot better after reading a few of your sites forums and info.

    Cheers 🙂

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