Man with Parkinson’s can’t get allowance – partner earns $1,000 too much

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A Canterbury man with Parkinson’s says he can’t get benefit because his partner earns just above the income threshold for a living support payment.

This left the couple surviving on $57,000 a year and unable to cover medical bills.

Former travel agent Ricky, who did not want his surname used for privacy reasons, said he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about a month before the first Covid lockdown in 2020.

He knew he couldn’t carry on working normally because of his health, but in another blow he was fired after the Covid hit.

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“We had to make big decisions because we were in our early 40s, we lived in Kaipara, we had a big lifestyle block and a big mortgage to go with it,” he said.

They sold, moved to Rangiora and paid off most of the mortgage.

“The idea was that I was supposed to try to get a job, but I guess I was a handicap for an employer because something as simple as stocking shelves or cleaning, I couldn’t even interview,” he said.

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Ricky suffered from the effects of Parkinson’s disease, including tremors, problems with balance and walking, and nausea. He thought he could still work between three and five hours a day, but his health was also unpredictable, he said.

He had a business making fences that he sold online, but it only made $4,000 last year.

The income threshold for a life support payment was $56,309 gross per week for a married, civil union or de facto couple without children, or 82% of the median wage. The threshold increased each year and was up from $48,921 in April 2021.

The Supported Living Payment is for people whose ability to work is “permanently and severely” limited for health reasons and who cannot work more than 15 hours per week.

Ricky had not applied for the benefit, but had spoken to the Department of Social Development to confirm that he was not eligible for a life support payment due to his partner’s income. He had also written to Health Minister Andrew Little and Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni about his situation.

KiwiSaver had accepted his critical illness withdrawal request without any issues, he said.

Dianne McDermott, regional commissioner for MSD Canterbury, said the department had encouraged Ricky to contact Work and Income to test his rights if his situation had changed.

“Our legislation requires us to consider all income received by either spouse or common-law partner when assessing eligibility for a benefit.

“Taking household income into account is a long-standing principle that underpins New Zealand social security legislation,” McDermott said.

Ricky said the couple were able to survive on one income and pay the bills, but they couldn’t afford their medical bills and they had no disposable income.

“We’re in a better boat than some people, we don’t have kids, but it’s just tough.”

He was denied a community service card in 2020 due to his partner’s income.

“That’s my biggest complaint, along with the health system and the community services card. For me, going to the doctor is $51 for a consultation. Health care should not be income-tested.

He was in a good relationship, but said relying on a partner’s income could be used to control someone in an abusive relationship. He didn’t want to overwhelm his partner either.

“It’s hard enough with everything going on without putting pressure and stressing the relationship. It just seems a bit unfair.

“You pay your taxes as an individual, so when something goes wrong, you expect the system to be there to help you.”

Karen Pattie, beneficiary advocacy and information services manager, said the relationship income policy has led to many financial abuses by abusive partners.

Removing the partner's income threshold would

Abigail Dougherty / Stuff

Removing the partner’s income threshold would make a “huge difference”, says Karen Pattie, the beneficiaries’ lawyer.

“One of the big concerns for me is young people under the age of 24 who are flattering. If they get into a relationship and they get an allowance, they have to ask the young foreigner to support them”, she said.

“If you are taxed as an individual, surely your support should be as an individual, as with the ACC and other government sectors.

“The pension falls under the same umbrella where they penalize the retiree against their partner’s income.”

The policy did not reflect modern households and was unfair and difficult to navigate.

“We have people calling in who can’t work, especially due to illness or disease, or the ACC kicks them out, and they’re pretty surprised they’re not entitled to anything under the umbrella. work and income.

Removing the partner income threshold would make a “huge difference”, she said.

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