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You’re caring for someone else’s child

Qualifying for the Unsupported Child’s Benefit or the Orphan’s Benefit

Social Security Act 2018, s 43

If you are an eligible caregiver (other than a foster parent) and you’re caring for someone else’s child, you might qualify for:

  • Unsupported Child’s Benefit, if the parents can’t support the child because of a family breakdown, or
  • Orphan’s Benefit, if the parents have died, can’t be found, or have a serious long-term illness or disability which makes them unable to care for their child.

The Unsupported Child Benefit and the Orphan’s Benefit aren’t income or asset tested. How much you get will depend on the age of the child.

Note: Foster parents of children who are in the care of Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Children qualify for financial assistance from Oranga Tamariki (Foster Care Allowance), rather than from Work and Income. For more information, go to orangatamariki.govt.nz/caring-for-someone/financial-help

Am I an eligible caregiver?

Social Security Act 2018, ss 44, 47

To be an eligible caregiver you must be:

  • at least 18, and
  • responsible for the day-to-day care of a child

You are also not the child’s:

  • natural parent, or
  • adoptive parent, or
  • step-parent (this includes de-facto relationships, not just married couples)


  • the child must be both resident and present in New Zealand, or
  • you must have been resident and present in New Zealand continuously for at least 12 months.

Who decides if there has been a “family breakdown”?

Social Security Act 2018, s 46(2)

If the child is under 13, Work and Income will interview the caregiver, others such as teachers or social workers, and the child’s natural parents (unless it isn’t appropriate or possible to do so, or if it would put the child at risk).

If the child is 13 or older, these interviews will be done by an independent authorised organisation (such as Barnardos or Ngāpuhi Iwi Social Services).

That organisation will make a recommendation to Work and Income, who then make the final decision. If you disagree with the final decision, you should ask for it to be reviewed – particularly if it is inconsistent with the recommendation (see: “Challenging Work and Income decisions: Reviews and appeals”).

Additional support and allowances

If you are getting the Unsupported Child Benefit or the Orphan’s Benefit, you’ll automatically receive:

  • a weekly Clothing Allowance to help cover the cost of clothing for the child in your care. The amount you get depends on the child’s age, and
  • a payment in December, and a payment two weeks before the child’s birthday (Holiday Allowance and Birthday Allowance) to help cover the cost of a celebration, gift or experience for the child.

You can also apply for:

  • School and Year Start-up Payment– This helps with costs at the beginning of the school or pre-school year, like clothing, school fees and stationery. To receive the payment, you need to apply every year between mid-January and the end of February. You should be paid within 10 days.
  • Establishment Grant– This is to help you with the costs when a child first comes into your care, such as a bed, bedding and clothing. You will usually receive a one-off grant of $350 for each child.
  • Extraordinary Care Fund– In special circumstances, those who get the Unsupported Child’s Benefit or Orphan’s Benefit can apply for additional financial assistance from the Extraordinary Care Fund. The fund helps with costs to support children in school, for example to attend kapa haka competitions or swimming lessons.

Did this answer your question?

Dealing with Work and Income

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Ministry of Social Development – Work and Income (WINZ)

See Work and Income’s website for information on whether you qualify for a benefit and how to apply for them.

Website: www.workandincome.govt.nz
Phone:  0800 559 009

Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP)

AAAP is a free nationwide advocacy service for people dealing with Work and Income.

Website: www.aaap.org.nz
Email: advocates@aaap.org.nz
Instagram: www.instagram.com/aucklandactionagainstpoverty
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AAAPNZ/

Helpful resources for beneficiaries: www.aaap.org.nz/resources

Beneficiaries Advocacy and Information Services (BAIS)

BAIS provides free advocacy and support for beneficiaries and low-income families in Auckland’s North Shore, Rodney and Hibiscus Coast districts.

Website: www.bais.org.nz
Phone: 09 444 9543
Instagram: www.instagram.com/bais.northshoreandrodney
Facebook: www.facebook.com/BAISnorthshoreandrodey   

Hutt Valley Benefit Education Service Trust (HV BEST)

The HV BEST provides information and support to beneficiaries in the Hutt Valley. 

Website: www.hvbest.co.nz
Email: hvbest@xtra.co.nz
Phone: 04 529 8108

Beneficiaries & Unwaged Workers Trust (BUWT)

BUWT provides information, advice and support to people on low incomes in Nelson.

Website: www.buwt.wordpress.com
Email: buwtcs@xtra.co.nz
Phone: 03 548 8171
Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/282105670089970/?locale=pt_PT

Beneficiary Advisory Service (BAS)

The BAS provides information and support to beneficiaries in Christchurch.

Website: www.bas.org.nz
Email: bas.cprc@gmail.com
Phone: 0800 00 00 43
Facebook: www.facebook.com/BeneficiaryAdvisoryService

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)

CAB provides free, confidential and independent information and advice. See CAB’s website for valuable information on a range of topics.

Website: www.cab.org.nz
Phone: 0800 367 222
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/citizensadvicenz

Find your local CAB office: www.cab.org.nz/find-a-cab

Zero Data

Zero Data is a new digital support that allows anyone with a mobile device, phone or tablet to access essential Government information for free. No data is used.

Website: www.zero.govt.nz

What do I need do I need for it to work?

  •  The device is on.
  •  The device is connected to Spark, Skinny One NZ, 2Degrees, Slingshot or Orcon.

You can access information from the following agencies:

  • Te Manatū Whakahiato Ora | Ministry of Social Development
  • Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga | Ministry of Education
  • Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs
  • Te Whatu Ora | Health New Zealand
  • Kāinga Ora | Homes & Communities
  • Te Tāhū o te Ture | Ministry of Justice
  • Te Kaporeihana Āwhina Hunga Whara | Accident Compensation Corporation

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