Guest Post: MSD ups efforts to detect sole parent benefit abuse

Lindsay Mitchell has been doing some digging  and come up with some interesting information regarding benefits and who should and shouldn’t be on them.

She has given me permission to repost her information in the interests of giving her a wider audience.

I have found the following information enlightening…especially as it appear to show that over 10% are abusing their benefit.


We all know that there are plenty of people pulling a single parent benefit who have partners. Anecdotal evidence aside, there are two data sources pointing to this.

One is the Growing up in NZ study, which I wrote about here but it gets quite complicated.

The second is simpler. It’s revealed in a passage from Child Poverty in New Zealand, by Simon Chapple and Jonathon Boston:

“Work undertaken at the Department of Labour and based on matching Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) and administrative welfare records indicated, firstly, that in 2011 about 10 per cent of people whose welfare records showed that they were receiving an unemployment benefit reported to the HLFS that they were actually in full-time employment (i.e., working at least thirty hours a week), and hence were ineligible for the benefit; secondly, that more than one-third of people on an unemployment benefit self-reported as not actively seeking work – and one in five expressed no intention to seek work in the coming year; and, thirdly, that about 10 per cent of people whose welfare records showed that they were receiving a DPB reported being partnered or living as married.”

(After an MBIE refusal to release the paper to me, the matter currently sits with the Ombudsman).

Back in October I blogged about a trial mentioned in the MSD Annual Report.

I have asked for more information under the OIA. On Thursday some data was released to me.

The trial is conducted on single parent support beneficiaries because this is the only benefit that has relationship status a requirement for eligibility. The participants were those who had been on Sole Parent Support benefit (SPS) for 20 weeks. A National group was selected, and a regional group covering Taranaki, Waikato and Wellington. Naturally a control group (which received no follow-up intervention) was also randomly selected and I am assuming these individuals had also been on SPS for 20 weeks.

Here are the early results. I have included the part of the letter that describes the outcomes. In a nutshell those beneficiaries left alone were the most likely to remain on a benefit. When Integrity Services (benefit fraud control) conducted the follow-up interview in the regions, 10.3% were off the benefit 42 days after allocation to the trial; another 1.9% were moved to another benefit (which might indicate a relationship was established and different benefit entitlement applied.)

The 10.3% is remarkably similar to the findings after matching HLFS data and WINZ records referred to above.

There is every chance the real incidence is higher. I say that because the trial only covered people who had been on SPS for 20 weeks. I suspect the likelihood of having an undeclared partner grows with time rather than decreases but I may be wrong.

Of course, it’d be easy enough to find out. Run follow-up interventions regularly across various cohorts. Though note that under the table the Ministry writes, “Results from the Follow-up Intervention trial continue to be analysed to inform decisions about whether engaging Sole Parents at a certain point in time should be rolled into normal business practice.”

Looks like a no-brainer to me.

Two other fraud initiatives referred to in a further document release include ensuring clients understand the definition of a de facto relationship using a brochure and on-line tool; and, in some cases, asking applicants for a third party that can confirm their relationship status (apparently the current Australian approach.)


Quite. It is not for lifestylers who produce meal ticket children because they can’t be bothered supporting themselves.


– Lindsay Mitchell

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story.  And when he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet.   Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him.  But you can’t ignore him.