National's new law that will see partner's of beneficiaries prosecuted is a good step forward.
Most of the currently prosecuted fraud - after claiming while employed - is claiming the DPB while living in a marriage-type relationship.
Most DPB claimants are women so this change generally affects men though other situations will occur. Same-sex partnerships are now recognised in the Social Security Act so a lesbian partner could also be prosecuted. And obviously the main beneficiary might be male. Given there is provision for couples to live together and claim a benefit in their own right - albeit at a reduced rate - the government has every right to start cracking down on people who break the rules. Both of them.
Also this move should reduce the vulnerability that having a secure income and home creates for DPB recipients - especially young, low esteem, malleable types who are all too willing to let a male sponge off her.
It's no surprise that the Maori Party aren't supportive. It's my belief that this sort of living arrangement whereby one half of the couple brings in the DPB and the other has no income, draws a benefit or works, is more common amongst Maori. It might not reflect intent to defraud necessarily. But it does reflect more transient, haphazard living.
In any case there are probably thousands of people who already know their living arrangements are not legit (some because a protection order also forbids them from living under the same roof.) Now it's a matter of changed dynamics as the blame and punishment spreads.
Will it make a difference? These people - mainly men - are risk-takers anyway. They probably have unpaid fines, other debt, previous convictions, child support debt, are possibly unemployable, possibly ex-prisoners, gang members, drug dealers. Is the threat of a $5,000 fine or prison going to change this particular behaviour? I doubt it.
But it does give the female another tool though, if she wants shot of the guy. Perhaps National should go a step further and offer an amnesty to the claiming partner if the other refuses to move out during the period following the new law implementation.
Update: Something was niggling at the back of mind about the business of actually defining someone as a partner. I had forgotten that Work and Income must demonstrate that the beneficiary is in a relationship with the required "emotional commitment" and "financial interdependence" for the other person to be defined as a de facto partner.
"...when considering if a client is in a relationship and the client
indicates they are a victim of domestic violence, extra care must be
taken when determining if the required level of emotional commitment is
present." Here we go again with bad incentives. If he hits her he won't be a 'partner' and he won't go to prison or pay a fine. Good lord. What a mess the benefit system is.
Samizdata quote of the day
44 minutes ago