Child Support Amendment Bill
Officials' report to the Social Services and Community Committee on submissions received on the Bill
LEGISLATIVE PROCESS SUBMISSIONS
- Legislative process issues raised by submitters
LEGISLATIVE PROCESS ISSUES RAISED BY SUBMITTERS
Issue: Submission process and engagement
(Birthright New Zealand, Jo Ellen Pethers, Tamika McCallum)
The engagement that Inland Revenue has undertaken with paying and receiving parents is not sufficient to support the recommendations in the Bill. Before any further changes are made, research on a representative sample size should be undertaken. (Birthright New Zealand)
The changes proposed in the amendment Bill have far greater financial implications than the wording of the Bill lets on. Proper notice of the proposal should be implemented before modifications to legislation begins. The financial impacts of these amendments should be disclosed. And the public should be given time to react and respond. The Bill should be clear about the overall reduction of provisions offered to support children from broken families. instead of writing explanatory notes which disguise these changes as “procedural”. (Jo Ellen Pethers)
Appropriate time should be given to the public for consultation and feedback and clear notification of the amendment Bill should be provided to the public. This has not been done, as such the submitter requests that there be an extension of time for further submissions from the public. (Tamika McCallum)
Most of the key proposals in this Bill were originally proposed in the 2017 Government discussion document Making Tax Simpler – Better administration of social policy. This document contained proposals aimed at improving the way social policy entitlements and obligations, including child support, are administered by Inland Revenue.
Extensive public consultation took place on the proposals in the discussion document. Following public feedback, the Government made decisions on the proposals and these have been incorporated into this Bill.
Because of time constraints, consultation on the proposal to introduce a child support time bar was limited to interest groups rather than parents and carers.
Some of the minor or technical changes were not consulted on because of their minor nature. However, the use of discretion for those in unusual circumstances was included in the 2017 discussion document Making Tax Simpler – Better administration of social policy.
Research was also conducted with a small number of liable parents and receiving carers to gauge their attitudes towards the penalty rules and how they see penalties affecting compliance.
As part of the normal process a regulatory impact assessment (the RIA) was completed and is publicly available, on both Inland Revenue’s tax policy website and the Treasury’s website. The RIA provides:
- a high-level summary of the problem being addressed
- the options considered
- an analysis of the costs and benefits of the options
- the consultation undertaken, and
- the proposed arrangements for implementation and review.
In addition, Inland Revenue has produced a Commentary on the Bill, which is intended to provide background information and explanations of the proposals, and examples of how the proposals (if enacted) would be expected to apply. The Commentary is also available on the tax policy website.
The Bill has followed the usual legislative process, including the select committee process for receiving public submissions on the Bill.
That the submission be declined.
Issue: Child impact analysis
(Office of the Children’s Commissioner)
A child impact assessment should be undertaken on all Bills considered by Select Committees.
Although impacts of the proposals in the Bill on children was not specifically identified, much of the analysis contained in the RIA relates to the financial impacts on the carers of children for whom child support is payable. As the proposals in the Bill are primarily related to improving administration, rather than fundamentally changing the child support assessment formula, the impacts on carers (and therefore children) are expected to be positive but minimal.
To ensure that impacts on children are more directly considered in future bills, Inland Revenue officials intend to undertake child impact assessments for future Inland Revenue bills that are likely to impact on children.
That the submission be declined.
Issue: Plain language
(Child Advocacy New Zealand, Liz Boyd, National Council of Women of New Zealand)
Law should be accessible and understandable. (Child Advocacy New Zealand)
The Bill should be translated to plain everyday language so that it is completely clear what the specific changes are, regardless of your education. (Liz Boyd)
Public information and advice about the new requirements and methods of assessment should be produced in plain language and in a range of languages and accessible formats. (National Council of Women of New Zealand)
Complexity in the Bill reflects the technical nature of many of the amendments. Inland Revenue has provided guidance explaining the amendments in the form of the Commentary on the Bill. This includes examples of how the rules would work in practice.
When legislation has been enacted, Inland Revenue produces a Tax Information Bulletin item setting out the changes.
Inland Revenue also produces guidance documents on general and specific child support topics on its website. As part of producing this information, Inland Revenue applies guidelines on web accessibility standards, including using plain language.
Inland Revenue is currently planning how it will communicate the proposed changes to child support customers (liable parents and receiving carers), and to employers (for automatic employer deductions).
This will involve considering the impacts on different groups of customers and the channels that will be used to make sure that messages reach the target audiences. This may include translation of some content into different languages, including te reo Māori. The range of channels is expected to include emails and letters, digital advertising, and website updates. Inland Revenue will also be working closely with other government agencies (including Oranga Tamariki and the Ministry of Social Development), and community and advocacy groups.
That the submission be noted.
Issue: Human rights-based approach
(National Beneficiary Advisory Consultation Group)
We wish to draw the committee’s attention to the benefits of a human rights-based approach to social welfare, recommended by Māmari Stephens and other informed commentators. We believe this approach should be applied to all social policy legislation and express our disappointment that it was not applied in the course of this Bill.
The proposals in this Bill were developed in accordance with the Generic Tax Policy Process (GTTP). One of the key components of the GTTP is consultation with stakeholders. Many of the elements of a human-rights based approach to social welfare, as suggested by Māmari Stephens, are incorporated into the GTTP, for example, participation in policy development and ongoing engagement.
Many of the key proposals contained in the Bill were originally proposed in the 2017 discussion document Making Tax Simpler – Better administration of social policy. Key stakeholders and government agencies were consulted during the development of the proposals.
An extensive engagement strategy was developed to support the release of the discussion document, including online public consultation which provided a vehicle for the public to comment on the proposals. It included an online forum with views sought on specific questions, short summaries of the key proposals, a simplified online survey and animated videos of the proposals. The summaries, surveys and videos were available in eleven languages including in New Zealand Sign Language. Officials also met with key interest groups around New Zealand.
As previously noted, the proposed amendments in the Bill support the move of child support to new systems and processes as part of Inland Revenue’s Business Transformation programme. They do not change the fundamentals of the scheme, including the amount of child support assessed. The assessment of child support is a function of factors such as income and care percentages and reflects that children should be appropriately supported by both their parents, even when they are not living together as a family.
That the submission be noted.