Auckland University identifies widespread benefit fraud

Press Release
Lindsay Mitchell

Lindsay Mitchell has been researching welfare since 2001. She has written multiple papers for the NZBR and Family First, and her articles have appeared across newsprint media.

Widespread benefit fraud has been identified by the Auckland University of Technology in research published on Wednesday by the Ministry of Social Development.

For a number of years, and on a number of occasions, I have questioned the longitudinal Growing Up in New Zealand (GUiNZ) data because the level of reported sole parenthood does not match the reported national level. In new research by AUT the authors have made similar observations:

“A weakness of the GUiNZ data is that it may not be population representative and is not linked to administrative data…. Overall, 95% of GUiNZ children are born to mothers who are partnered. The GUiNZ sample seems to have low sole-parent status compared to a 2009 study that found one-third of families with dependent children were headed by sole-parents (Ministry of Social Development, 2010). This could be because being partnered in the GUiNZ data is not the same as their domestic-purposes benefit status, from which partnership status is
inferred by other studies.

We find that 70% of those who say they receive the domestic-purposes benefit also answer yes to the question of whether they have a partner ? confirming that the sole-parent status derived from GUiNZ is essentially different to those studies which rely on benefit status to infer partnership status.”

Work and Income rules state:

You may get Sole Parent Support if you are:

  • aged 20 or older
  • a single parent or caregiver with one or more dependent children under 14
  • not in a relationship
  • without adequate financial support.

Claiming a sole parent benefit while partnered is illegal. Based on these new findings, the practice may be widespread. It appears however to be tolerated.

The government is currently sitting on the completed Expert Welfare Advisory Group report. It is to be hoped that benefit fraud and better policy to prevent it, will form part of the ensuing discussion. 


Work and Income