Partners of welfare cheats will be liable for prosecution and
could face a year in jail or a $5000 fine under a law change.
Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows today
announced three new initiatives to clamp down on relationship
fraud in the welfare system, which was believed to cost
Government more than $20 million a year.
A new offence will be created to target partners or spouses
of beneficiaries convicted of fraud.
"Currently there are few options available to prosecute
partners who know or benefit from such offending, leaving the
entire debt with one partner," Mr Borrows said.
He said that prosecuting partners who benefited from welfare
fraud would ensure both parties who profited from the crime
were punished, and the debt could be split between the two
partners and recovered more quickly.
The Ministry of Social Development would be given more powers
to seize partners' assets to recover costs.
There was expected to be 700 cases of debt-splitting a year
once the legislation was passed.
The amendment to the law would relate to partners of people
who claimed a Domestic Services Benefits or Sole Parent
Support despite being in a "marriage-type"relationship.
The penalty for partners involved in relationship fraud would
be a fine of up to $5000 or up to a year in prison.
In addition to the law change, the ministry would introduce
tougher rules for beneficiaries who had been dishonest in the
Three-quarters of the people who were charged with welfare
fraud in the last financial year had previously ripped off
These "low-trust" beneficiaries would have more restricted
access to self-service transactions and would face more
rigorous verification of their personal information.
The new policy would affect around 1000 beneficiaries.
The ministry would also formalise information-sharing with
related agencies such as ACC, Inland Revenue, Housing New
Zealand and the police.
- By Isaac Davison of the New Zealand Herald