Much has been mentioned by media lately regarding student debt. There’s another kind of debt that hits the young too. Child support debt. The reasons for pursuing the debt are legitimate but penalties are outrageous.

I watched a video presentation from an IRD guy talking about efforts to reduce non-compliance among first time liable parents.

Here’s a slide:

  • New liable parents have a median age of 25.
  • They have a relatively low income – median of $19k per year.
  • Only a quarter of these pay their first three obligations on time
  • Two thirds have over a 75% chance of getting into debt and remaining in debt.

1,000 new customers enter the system each month.

So how is IRD going to improve the situation?  Rethink their penalty regime?

No. They have pioneered a new form of customer engagement calling it, “This is Us”

“To truly have our customers at the “heart” of our every interaction….”

“…one of the things in a behavioural interventions area is that we had a behavioural psychologist on our team and we used a variety of different things like soft skills training, empathy, active listening skills, things like using appeals, like, “Oh, by the way, I’m sure you want to do the right thing for your children”, this sort of type of conversation, we reframe the conversations to make it easier to understand, use some negotiation techniques and the bottom one is really important because we emphasised the importance of paying Child Support for the benefit of his or her child, which we wanted to resonate that you’re not just doing this because we’re telling you to do this, you’re doing this because you have an obligation to support your children even though you’re not living with them.”

Patronising pap.  There are irresponsible absconders (who Labour are going to help out later this year by allowing them to go unnamed and non-liable) but also many fathers who would very much like to be living with their children but have been denied the opportunity thanks in part to the benefit system and court bias.

Anyway, they piloted the new approach on 248 new liable parents and formed two other control groups from the remainder:

All new liable parents assessed on June 2017

  • 248 new liable parents from the pilot group
  • 511 from the control group 1 = applications

received over the phone /in writing and educated

(called “Registration Initiative”)

  • 311 from the control group 2 = all other

remaining customers and educated (called

“Standard Group”)

Pilot ran from July through December 2017

After 12 months the percentage of customers paying ‘full and on time’ was 62.6% for the pilot group; 61.6 for the registration initiative group and 61.2 for the standard group. The result wasn’t cost-effective on that measure. It wasn’t provided at 17 months.

The measure of ‘percent of assessment paid’ is provided at 17 months.

These results have been sufficient to implement the new approach in the Families Section from July 2019.

They’re all heart.


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