What help is available for solo parents in New Zealand?
Whether you’ve become suddenly single, or are contemplating leaving your relationship, one of the biggest obstacles and struggles is money.
How you’ll manage alone is a daunting concept - but it doesn’t have to be. There is help available to you - all you need to do is ask for it.
Government assistance should be your first port of call
We’re fortunate to live in a country where we have state assistance available to help us get by when life is feeling just a bit hard. While not everyone is eligible for government assistance, many of you will be. Jump onto this website and see what you may be eligible for https://check.msd.govt.nz
Government assistance ranges from tax subsidies, housing assistance, childcare subsidies, community services cards and a range of other help depending on your situation.
You’ll fill in forms online, and then go and see a case officer where you’ll learn more about what is or isn’t available. You’ll get asked a lot of questions, so it’s good to have important documents ready, like birth certificates, bank details etc.
Help is often means-tested which means it’s based on what you earn. Some of the assistance is also based on your earnings for the year, so if you exceed the limits later on in that financial year, you may get asked to pay something back.
Head into these discussions with an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions - you can be sure they’ve heard them before.
Child support will also help
Child Support is another source of potential income available to you. IRD can organise all of this for you, or you and the other parent can come to your own private agreement. The amount you receive depends on a number of things including incomes and your custody schedule. Even with 50/50 care you may find you’re paying child support due to your income being significantly higher than the other parent.
Reach out to your local budgeting service or citizens advice bureau and get them to work with you on a budget so that you aren’t struggling every pay cheque. It’s handy to come with information about your bills, debt and expenses so you can get stuck in. Another great (and free!) resource is the online budgeting tool found at www.sorted.org.nz
A quick google will do a world of wonder for improving your situation. Every region has different social services who’ll be able to help you. Call your local Plunket, parents group, doctor, schools, libraries and councils to ask about food banks, counselling, parenting help and childcare assistance in your area.
Find a friend
You’ll remember from having babies that fellow mums are invaluable and that’s the same for single parents. Get on Facebook and find local parenting groups, talk to parents at the park or mall and find your person.
You’ll be ok
Becoming a single parent is one of the hardest things a person will ever have to do - but you will be ok. The initial few months are really really hard but slowly each day will get easier and you’ll build a support network of people who are there to champion your every move. They say it takes a village to raise a child - and sometimes your village is waiting for you to do one thing - ask them for help.
Olivia Wix lives in Palmerston North, works in public relations, and is a single mum to three year old Jasper.
image: @crystalmariesing via Twenty20