Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis has welcomed changes that will make it easier for caregivers looking after children outside of the state care system to access much-needed financial assistance.
The Social Security (Financial Assistance for Caregivers) Amendment Bill will also allow these caregivers to access further benefits previously unavailable to them.
“Across New Zealand, there are about 15,000 caregivers who have stepped up on a day-to-day basis to look after some 24,000 New Zealand children who are not able to be cared for by their parents,” said Kelvin Davis.
“I have every hope that the changes made today, go some way to rebalancing some of the inequity that exists, by eliminating some of the disparities in the payment system.
There are two types of caregivers: those who look after children in state care, and those who look after children who are not in state care.
The first change enacted today addresses the discrepancy between the support that these two types of caregivers get by removing the minimum period of care required for caregivers outside of state care to qualify for the Orphan’s Benefit or the Unsupported Child’s Benefit and associated payments.
Until now these benefits have been available only when a child or young person was expected to be in the care of their caregiver for at least 12 months, resulting in many caregivers missing out on much-needed support.
The second change will give caregivers who receive the Orphan’s Benefit or the Unsupported Child’s Benefit access to annual Holiday and Birthday Allowances for tamariki and rangatahi in their care. Until now these allowances have only been paid to caregivers of children in state care.
“It means those caregivers can provide a little bit extra on those very special days,” says Kelvin Davis.
The Holiday Allowance will be paid in December in advance of Christmas Day this year, and the Birthday Allowance will be paid in advance of children’s birthdays in and after January 2022.
Recently, the Government made an investment of $57 million through Budget 2021 to remove the remaining disparities in standardised payments that different caregivers receive. These changes will be implemented in April 2022.
“These changes are just a part of the Government’s response to a comprehensive review of financial assistance for caregivers undertaken in 2019.
“We are also progressing long-term work to reform the system of financial assistance and support for caregivers, to ensure that our tamariki who are unable to be cared for by their parents get the support that they need and deserve.”