Child support millions missing a generation
In total, $420.4 million in child support was collected by Inland Revenue in 2011, and IRD says some of this can go to grandparents.
But grandparents who raise their grandchildren have little hope of receiving any money this way, says grandmother Diana Vivian.
“Most of the children come from homes where there’s no money,” says Diana.
“The parents are usually unemployed. There is often drug addiction and many are in prison. Where is the money supposed to come from?”
Diana is the national convenor for the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust, which has more than 5000 members.
She says grandparents use up precious savings to support the children, who often need more help than other kids due to emotional or physical trauma.
“We even get asset tested when our grandchildren grow up and want to go on to study. But we can’t keep supporting them. This is for our retirement.”
IRD will definitely pay child support to grandparents if it has been collected from liable parents, says Catherine Delore, of IRD.
But Diana says the reality is that many grandparents are dependent on a benefit, such as Unsupported Child Benefit or, if single, the Domestic Purposes Benefit.
This means any child support collected is funnelled back to the government to offset the benefit payments.
A total of $202.9 million, or 49.2%, of the child support collected by IRD in 2011, was paid to the Crown as offsets.
“I don’t know anybody who receives child support,” Diana says. “There are grandmothers who get up to eight grandchildren placed with them and they’re really struggling.”
Of the 196,000 people who don’t live with all of their children, but give some kind of support, just 46% pay child support, according to figures from Statistics New Zealand.
Some parents choose to offer other types of support, including clothing (49%), meeting educational costs (35.6%) and providing or paying for groceries (38%).
Others give their children pocket money or an allowance (40.6%), pay bills or debt (18.7%), or contribute to rent and housing costs (9.1%).
Diana says private arrangements such as these are generally not possible for grandparents, as the family relationships are too damaged.
“Whole families have been torn apart. Often there’s just so much anger from the parents. Grandparents might be able to get court orders, but they just get ignored, like a parking ticket would be.”
About 1.5 million adults or their partners have children aged less than 18 years old ccording to Statistics New Zealand.
Of these, 225,000 (15%) have none or just some of their children living with them and are therefore liable to pay child support.
The number of children who require support from a parent they don’t live with varies depending on the source – IRD estimates 272,700 children are eligible for payments, while Peter Dunne of United Future, used a figure of about 210,000 when announcing the Child Support Amendment Bill in October last year.
A total of $4.6 billion has been collected from liable parents since the child support scheme began in 1992 according to IRD.