Feature History – War of the Roses

.@BSA_NZ complaint against @TVNZ about sanctions on single mums on the benefit who do not name the father report

TV1 broadcast an untruth; it stood by that untruth in its complaints process because it relied on unreliable information from beneficiary activists rather than checking on the Ministry website.

The report was about a single mother claiming she had been penalised in her benefit because she refused to name the father of the children because of threats of violence. The report never mentioned that if there were threats of violence, she did not have to name the father to WINZ. That is my recollection of the report and why I made my complaint. The video clip is no longer online.

TV1’s complaints committee says that the exemption does not work in practice because single mothers face barriers in asking for the exemption because they do not know of the exemption or need to pay a lawyer to represent them. That is an untruth fed to them by beneficiary activists.

If TV1 checked at the Ministry’s website, they would find that lawyers are not even at the bottom of the list of credible witnesses, a long list of independent witnesses, the Ministry is happy to accept as evidence of threats or abuse to qualify for the exemption from naming the father. Quoting from https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/map/income-support/core-policy/child-support/carer-required-to-provide-proof-of-the-risk-of-violence.html

Rates of benefits for sole parents may be reduced section 70A Social Security Act 1964
Meaning of domestic violence section 3 Domestic Violence Act 1995

It may not always be possible to provide written proof of the risk of violence, but written proof of a history of violence will help support a carers statement.

Written proof includes (but is not limited to) documents or letters provided by:

  • the carers doctor
  • Police
  • Womens Refuge
  • court papers
  • a Social Worker
  • the carer’s church
  • any other reputable person or organisation that is in a position to support a carer’s statement

When the carer provides proof of violence by the paying parent, you must consider whether they would be at risk of violence if they were to meet their Child Support obligations.

Carer unable to provide written proof of the risk of violence
Definition of violence

Legislation
Rates of benefits for sole parents may be reduced section 70A Social Security Act 1964
Meaning of domestic violence section 3 Domestic Violence Act 1995

The Broadcasting Standards Authority must note that lawyers are not listed by WINZ as a reputable organisation or person to substantiate threats of violence or abuse.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority and TV One know that lawyers represent the interests of their clients; a solicitor’s letter repeats allegations from their clients. A solicitor does not independently verify facts to third parties or act as a witness for or against their client’s interests. Indeed, that would be a breach of legal privilege to say I do not believe my own client, or I really do and trust me.

I find it rather hard to take my appeal further because TV One hangs its hat on the exemption being of no practical importance because of financial barriers and administrative oversight.

The attached letter on behalf of the minister to me verifies that caseworkers interview single mothers and inform clients at the interview and writing of the consequences of not naming the father and their options if they do not wish to do so. WINZ is particularly concerned about tracking down any client who has not been properly informed about her rights and entitlements.

It is hard not to know there are exemptions for single mothers who have been threatened or there was abuse because she passed by that information in the course of applying for the benefit

I could not apply for the sole parent support to check if this information about threats and not needing to name the father is repeated because I do not have a Real Me login or other way to get in. But as the information about situations such as risk of violence is directly above the apply online at button, it is safe to assume that every applicant knows of the exemption.

At bottom, if the reply of the complaints committee was true then it is not credible. It is a far greater scandal to say that there is an exemption for single mothers when the father is a threat, but administrative incompetence and financial barriers prevent mothers from using it. All points of the political spectrum would be riled up by that administrative incompetence.

The TV1 complaints committee instead mentions that they preferred to rely on the story of the mother who was unable to use that exemption, but they never mentioned the exemption or whether she applied for it or not and why she was rejected.

Instead, viewers are puzzled by why the mother was brave enough to go on national television and call the father of her children a criminal but was not able to tell that story to WINZ or is unable to verify the criminal threats made by the father of her children. Even a passing glance at the list of credible sources listed by the Ministry show they are essentially any 3rd party who you would at least hesitate to lie to or would be unlikely to be act as a confederate in corroborating a lie to WINZ.

Instead and contrary to the screen snapshot of broadcast standards cited by TVNZ’s complaints committee, TV1 broadcast an entirely one-sided report; it did not speak to anyone on the other side of the major issue in the 100 days program of the new government. If they spoke to the ministry, they have at least 50 journalists working for them, they would have been told of the exemption and that the information they have been given by the beneficiary activists was misleading.

At bottom, TV One has dug its heels in. It should have spoken to an alternative viewpoint but did not. At a minimum it should confirm the information from beneficiary activists with the Ministry but did not. It could have Googled the rules relating to the exemption but did not. Any one of those fact checking steps would have eviscerated the one-sided report TV1 broadcast. Instead, TV1 claims the exemption really does not work in practice but they do not need to tell anybody that and instead lead viewers to believe there was no exception from naming the father for any reason including violence.

The broadcast by TV1 is untrue and certainly unbalanced – totally one-sided.

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