Home > Social Issues > Once upon a time there was a solo-mum…

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum…

… and a Wicked Wacko Witch.

Sally* is 37 and a solo-mother with an 18 year-old (Wayne*) and 11 year (Zack*) old sons.



Sally had Wayne to her first partner, but the relationship did not last because of drug-taking and violent abuse on his part. (Some months after they separated, he committed suicide.) Sally went on to the DPB, raising her newborn son by herself.

Seven years later, Sally met someone else and formed a relationship with him. The relationship went well and she became pregnant (a son, Zack) to her new partner.

As  her pregnancy progressed, Sally’s partner seemed to go of the rails,  and he increasingly  took up  drink and drugs with his boozy mates. As Sally said, he “was more into his mates than his family” and she finally  threw him out.

Sally was adamant she did not want someone like him as a role-model for her sons. She went back on the DPB and began to examine her options in life.

Eventually, Sally  applied for a course at Victoria University for a bachelors degree  in early childhood education. She applied for, and got, the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA).

Zack’s father saw his young son a couple of times during his first year as a newborn and infant, but thereafter showed little interest in maintaining contact. He eventually disappeared from Sally and her children’s life. She was on her own to raise her sons – a role she took seriously, and sought no new relationships with men.

Instead, she applied herself to her university course.

Sally says that the TIA helped her immensely, paying her transport, study-costs, fees, and childcare for her sons. She says,

You could only get the TIA on the DPB, not on the dole, which I thought was unfair.”

After her graduation, Sally followed up with a Masters degree, which took another four years in part-time study. During the final two years of her uni studies, she took up a part-time job. This decreased the amount she received on the DPB, and her part-time job was taxed at the Secondary Tax Rate (her benefit was considered as a “primary job” by the IRD).

Sally took out a student loan for her M.Ed, as WINZ would not pay the Training Incentive Allowance for higher university education.

One could view the “claw back” of her DPB and higher tax-rate on her part-time job as a dis-incentive which penalised Sally, and others in her position, but she persevered. With end-of-year tax refunds, she says it “all squared out” – but she could have done with the extra money through the year.

Sally graduated and got her Masters degree in early childhood education. By this time, Wayne was 14 and Zack, 6. One month later, she found a full time job and replaced the DPB with a good salary. She says that the MA gives her an extra $11,000 per annum.

During her studies and part time job, Sally raised her two sons – one of whom was increasingly “challenging” with Aspergers and ADHD.

(This blogger can confirm that young Zack – whilst a bright, personable child – can also be “a handful”, and was effectively thrown out of his previous school for “disruptive behaviour”.)

We discussed the Training Incentive Allowance, which Paula Bennet used to put herself through University. I asked her,


With being on the DPB, and with the availability of the TIA, do you think it assisted and motivated you to get yourself of the Benefit?”

Sally replied,

With the TIA, definitely. If I’d have to borrow money, yeah, I think that would’ve been quite daunting, I guess. I mean, I had to take out a student loan anyway, so if I’d have to borrow more, it would’ve taken longer to pay back. The extra assistance helped.”

I asked,

So the TIA, you believe, was a good incentive?

Sally responded,

Yep, yep, otherwise some people would probably stay on the benefit, especially when working part-time and being on a part benefit, is  hardly  worth it, especially at a certain level. So I think training to get a higher income to make it worth going off the benefit and not have to borrow thousands of dollars for it, yeah, that’s a good incentive.”

Sally has now been off  the DPB; in paid employment for the last four and a half years; and paying tax on a good salary. She is also spending more, and her oldest son, Wayne is now doing tertiary education himself.

Being a taxpayer means that she is now “paying it forward”, to support the next person who requires state assistance. This is what welfare should be about.

Unfortunately for us, the Minister for Social Welfare, Paula Bennett, who was on the DPB herself and used the Training Incentive Allowance to gain a University degree – has canned the TIA.


Paula Bennett was on the DPB and used the Training Incentive Allowance to gain a University degree.



Only a National Government can screw up a system that actually succeeded in training and upskilling people; getting them off welfare; and into paid work. One cannot help but wonder if National secretly wants thousands of people on welfare, to create a  pool of cheap labour, and drive down wages…

Sally has worked hard; bettered herself; improved her family’s financial position; and has raised two sons in a good home – one of whom is in tertiary education now.

This is a good outcome due to progressive government policy.

Please, Mr Key, may we have some more?





* Sally and her son’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.



  1. Karen
    7 March 2012 at 8:25 am

    Great post Frank 🙂

  2. Deb J
    7 March 2012 at 9:49 am

    The thing about welfare reform that is making me angry right now is the edict for sole parents receiving a benefit to get part-time work when the youngest child is 6, or 1 if they were already on a benefit. The thing that annoys me about it is that govt funded childcare for school aged children is only available 7.30-8.30am and 3-6pm. The part time jobs out there are late nights and weekends – i.e. when there is no affordable childcare. So it’s just rhetoric. They know that sole parents can’t find part-time work. Making these statements just gives ill-informed people another chance to benefit-bash the responsible parent that put their childrens needs before their own pleasure.

    Just take a look at the part time work around, it’s mostly retail, and mostly evenings and weekends.

    The govt only subsidise the oscar approved childcare facilities. that’s a process that only large centres go through they’re only open before and after school.

    These retail jobs are generally low to minimum wage. so it’s not like they’ve got the money to pay for childcare.

  3. Jacqui
    7 March 2012 at 10:51 am

    There really is no incentive to get people back into work.

    Many years ago when I was on the DPB I found I had cancer, they decided not to transfer me to the sickness because it was less money, BUT I was not allowed to do any courses, even if they were only short courses that I had 3yrs to complete as they said if you can’t work then we are not helpping you out to study.

    Anyway to cut a long story short I paid to do a real estate course myself, once complete and I was well enough to work I approched WINZ to find out if I would still get my benefit while starting out as quite often you don’t sell a house for the first several months, they promptly told me that I lose my benefit the day I start work, they didn’t care if I had no money coming in, so I didn’t end up doing real estate.

  4. Deborah Kean
    7 March 2012 at 4:25 pm

    I was on a DPB at a time when the TIA still existed but it was ‘discretionary’, (or so my ‘case manager’ told me) and she was against the course I wanted to do (ESOL language teaching) – it went further – she didn’t want me to study at all! She said “I’d rather you worked at McDonalds or scrubbed floors! Why do you get to stay home with your kid, or study when I don’t! It’s not fair!” So I took out a student loan. I got a TIA for only 1 year out of the 4 that I spent studying, because of changes of ‘case manager’.
    (Her husband was a paraplegic, who as a house-husband, took care of their children, and she later quit to go on a benefit with her husband and child. The important thing is that I wasn’t, and am not responsible for her problems, yet she could take her resentment out on me.)
    I had only just paid back my student loan when I lost my office job. I took out another student loan (on UB by then, and the TIA had been abolished even if I had still been on DPB). I haven’t been able to get work, so that student loan will never be repaid. Thanks, John Key!

  5. 8 March 2012 at 11:04 am

    Right with you, ladies. I brought up 2 sons on the DPB. Had a case manager who insisted I should get p/t time work (the usual retail/caregiving/cleaning) all at unsociable hours. I had no family support to mind the kids so the case manager said Winz would hire a private babysitter so i could do the decent thing and work. Ha!!! Never happened but it cost me a stand down – no money – while I fought it.
    Later I got some TIA to study & went to varsity, then onto student allowance. I graduated, went to Teachers College and now can’t find a job teaching secondary school. Less than half all grads are getting work and the govt clearly wants to privatise (read casualise) teaching. Yeah, thanks John.
    Many single mums have no available family to help out with the kids, absent fathers who walk away and only want to look after the new missus and her children. Many of us are excluded from their community social life – another form of beneficiary bashing – in case they run off with someone’s husband, or are not sufficiently sorry for not having a husband & job. They certainly wouldn’t mind your kids while you had a few hours off or bring a food parcel when you & your kids are sick.
    I don’t think kiwis generally know that child support payments go to the govt, thus offsetting the dpb. It’s actually cheaper to run DPB than U/B. And, gosh, mums do actually work in the home & with their kids.

    • Deborah Kean
      8 March 2012 at 4:33 pm

      Absolutely right, Kerry. working in the home looking after children *is* work!
      Your comment about the fact that the neighbours won’t bring a food parcel when you and the kids are sick, reminds me of the solo daddy (my sister’s neighbour) I knew, who did in fact have all the neighbourhood women bringing casseroles and doing laundry – until it turned out that he had stolen the children to get the house (in an ex-parte hearing) to bring them up in. Then he sent the kids to their mother and grandparents in Tauranga and moved his new girlfriend into the house.
      Sympathy for a self-made solo daddy, but none for his ex-wife who hadn’t known she was an ex-wife until she got the results of the ex-parte hearing!
      (She had gone to Tauranga to stay with her parents while having chemo for breast cancer, on hubby’s suggestion.) 😦

      • 8 March 2012 at 11:16 pm

        Ha! Yes, I’ve noted that phenomenon too – plucky solo dads who get cakes n casseroles and offers to mind the children. There is a very nasty backlash against single mums, we seem to have become the nation’s scapegoats. So much for the notion of it taking a village to raise a child.
        The whole system of custody/child support is completely stuffed – designed to turn people against each other and make lawyers rich (surprise!). The powers that be trying to force people to stay together, I feel, because the financial, social & emotional price to be paid is way too high otherwise. I note it’s much easier when rich folks divorce – they can afford full time nannies.
        I wish you luck on the job hunting front and all power to you in rebuilding your life!

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