Originally published on Scoop April 1, 2021
By Jen Wilton
Claire* has been a solo parent since she was pregnant with her second child. The Wellington woman works full-time and started putting away savings for her children. But when she went into a bank to enrol her kids in Kiwisaver, she was told she would need their father’s signature as well.
Claire has had a protection order against her children’s father for three years and says contacting him for a signature is not possible. They have had no contact at all for two years, including a complete lack of child support payments during that time.
Claire says of the current Kiwisaver rules: “What if in some circumstances that drives somebody to want to get back in touch with someone who is violent or unhinged?”
Claire says it is unfortunate children with solo parents tend to be financially worse off and she tries to do the job of two parents, so her children have everything their peers do.
“To be told I can’t have something that their friend in day care has just because they happen to have a mum and a dad, I just find ludicrous,” Claire says. “It’s a discriminatory hurdle that doesn’t need to be there.”
Inland Revenue data shows 264,800 people aged 17 or under were enrolled in Kiwisaver in January 2021. Inland Revenue rules state anyone under 16 needs the consent of all legal guardians before they can enrol in Kiwisaver. Young people aged 16 to 17 can enrol in Kiwisaver with the signature of only one legal guardian.
Jessica Keltie of Wellington is also a single mum and says she looks after her child 99% of the time and pays for everything. She wanted to open a Kiwisaver for her child
“If you start a Kiwisaver for a child between 0 and 3 years old and contribute $10 a week until they are 18 years old, they will have a lump sum of $20-25,000 in that Kiwisaver.”
Unable to get the second parental signature required, she was declined from opening a Kiwisaver account for her young daughter. Keltie started writing to government ministers last year to find out what could be done to change this situation.
Dissatisfied with the response, Keltie launched a parliamentary petition in January asking for the “archaic” rules to be changed.
“It’s pretty clear, I want to see them relax the rules for single parents on Kiwisaver,” Keltie says. “I want to be able to open a Kiwisaver for my child without having to ask her father.”
The petition, which closed yesterday, has garnered over 1500 signatures and will be presented to Parliament next month with the support of Green MP Jan Logie.
Claire hopes the petition will cause the Government to rethink access to Kiwisaver because the rule no longer fits modern society. She says she feels “mum guilt” and strives to make sure her kids are not missing out by not having another parent in their life.
“That’s no fault of theirs whatsoever. Why should they be punished for something beyond their control?”