The Right to Love

How our current welfare system is punishing people for falling in love.

3 min readJul 8, 2019
Image Description: Couple hugging on steps

Sharing food, hugs and laughter with people we love are some of life’s most treasured moments. It is in these shared moments the stresses in life dissolve and joy flourishes. It is in these moments that the resilience to keep going despite mounting bills and deadlines, and the constant juggling of children and housework is found.

Together the ActionStation community has worked to uphold the values of justice and compassion, and that’s why we think you’ll be as heartbroken as we are to hear how our welfare system is punishing people for finding love.

Right now, if a Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) caseworker believes a person receiving income support is having someone to stay up to three nights a week or has been in a relationship with them for more than six weeks, they can cut their off social security payments, based on the assumption their new partner should now support them financially.

Single mum and Supported Living Beneficiary Hannah says current relationship rules, coupled with the invasive way WINZ investigate people like her, has made her scared to date or even have close friendships in case she is stripped of the income she relies on to feed her children and pay her rent.

Hannah’s experience was reflected in a recent report published by Child Poverty Action Group and the University of Auckland’s Public Policy Institute, which found:

“Currently, the overly punitive and harsh approach to welfare in New Zealand actively serves to punish some of our most vulnerable members of society, especially mothers and children.”

We believe the opportunity to be in a healthy loving relationship should be available to everyone. Regardless of our economic status, and without risking the ability to feed our children or pay rent.

This government has promised to overhaul the welfare system to ensure everyone in Aotearoa can live with dignity. And we know in September, they are due to announce what improvements they will make to the social welfare system. Let’s make sure enabling love to flourish is at the top of their list!

Click here to add your power to our petition and support everyone’s right to love.

In 2018, housing and poverty were the biggest concerns for New Zealanders. This makes sense in a cash strapped economy, where more and more people are struggling to meet the rising costs of rent, food and fuel. What doesn’t make sense is the way our welfare system forces people to choose between the money they need to survive or love.

A member of the ActionStation community (who wants to remain anonymous) told us what the current relationship rules mean for them:

“I love a person who is on a benefit but we cannot have a relationship. I do not earn enough money to support that person and they do not want to lose what little independent money they have.”

“… On one income we cannot afford to pay rent in Auckland or meet my friend’s medical costs. [WINZ should] let beneficiaries have the chance to be in a relationship without losing their independent income. As well as the financial need, beneficiaries should be allowed to have time to enter a relationship and see if it’s going to last before they lose their benefit.”

As a community, ActionStation strives to be a beacon of love, and a signpost towards the better world we know is possible. That’s why we’re building a movement to transform the welfare system and unlock everyone’s right to love. Will you join us?




Community campaigning organisation bringing people together to act in powerful and coordinated ways to create a fair and flourishing Aotearoa for all.