Supplementary Memorandum by the Department
of Social Welfare, New Zealand Government |
Welfare of Former Child Migrants:
Follow-up with NZ High Commissioner, London
(CM 180B)1. You have advised that
our High Commissioner in London will shortly be meeting with David
Hinchliffe, Chairman of the UK Health Committee, following their
recent visit to New Zealand pursuing their Inquiry into the Welfare
of Former Child Migrants.
2. At this meeting the Department would
appreciate the High Commissioner reiterating several points made
to the Committee when it met with officials. It would also be
constructive to use this opportunity to provide some additional
material relating to matters raised by the Committee. We trust
these notes will assist in this regard. In addition, information
requested by the Committee on the effect of overseas travel on
benefit eligibility is appended.
Provision of information to the Committee during
3. Discussion of the administration of the care of the
children after arrival in NZ was limited. While we appreciate
that the Committee may have found this somewhat frustrating, it
is important to note that the Chair of the Committee was advised
prior to departure that such discussion would be significantly
constrained by the legal proceedings which the Crown is defending.
Role of the British Government
4. On several occasions
during their visit members of the Committee mentioned they were
not clear on the role played by the British Government in New
Zealand's Child Migration Scheme. Members of the Committee expressed
the view at meetings that the British Government's role was a
"passive" one whereas New Zealand's role was "proactive".
The Department has recently examined the original Department of
Labour files related to the establishment of the Child Migration
5. The NZ Government did play a proactive role in developing
the Scheme. However, file material shows that the British Home
Office and Commonwealth Relations Office were consulted and they
gave their approval in principle to the scheme.
6. The following
extracts from a telegram from the NZ High Commissioner, London
to the Minister of External Affairs, Wellington, 26 March 1948,
shed light on various parties' involvement. (This was in response
to a telegram of 10 March 1948 from the Minister of External Affairs
requesting that the High Commissioner "discuss whole question
fully with Home Office view to securing agreement in principle
to introduction of a scheme of child migration . . ."):
"Child Migration scheme discussed with
Home Office and Commonwealth Relations Office who are in agreement
in principle although not prepared to take any active part in
"Scheme discussed with Major Bavin, Over-Seas
League, who guarantees to find suitable children under guardianship
scheme at the rate of 20 per month up to a total of 400 children."
"Home Office considers Overseas League
competent to undertake preliminary selection but that final selection
and administration should be handled by this Office."
A press statement made by the NZ Minister of Immigration in early
April 1949, notes that there was a "Selection Committee,
on which the New Zealand and United Kingdom Governments and the
Over-Seas League are represented" and that this was "to
proceed with the final selection." [NB: this is inconsistent
with the content of the telegram discussed above, but consistent
with the Over-Seas League material below.] In addition, reports
were sought on the children from the Children's Officers of the
various County Councils.
Role of the Over-Seas League
8. It would also be
valuable to provide supplementary information about the role of
the Over-Seas League to contribute to an historically accurate
picture of the New Zealand scheme. While the League has informed
the UK Health Committee that the League "acted solely
as a recruitment agency" NZ file sources show that this is
only a partial description of the League's role.
9. The League
initially proposed the scheme to the NZ High Commissioner in London
in early 1947. In New Zealand there had been interest in a scheme
for orphaned children, but few were available. The following information
was extracted from file sources:
The Over-Seas League (Cyril Bavin) wrote to
the NZ High Commissioner in London (2 January 1947): "Submitting
to you officially our proposals with regard to the Migration of
children to New Zealand." The League proposed "That
we inaugurate a scheme for the migration to New Zealand of children
between the ages of 8 and 15 years . . ." The High Commissioner's
support was sought in putting the proposal to the NZ Government.
The proposal was forwarded to the NZ Prime Minister, and then
to the Director of the National Employment Service for comment.
Subsequent to this there was correspondence on the proposal in
Britain (between the League and the NZ High Commission in London),
and in New Zealand (between the League and the Director of Employment).
A press statement made by the NZ Secretary of
Labour and Director of Employment in 1948 notes "The Scheme
was originally suggested by the Over-Seas League".
A document describing the scheme, prepared by
the NZ head of the League and sent to the NZ Director of Employment
in 1949 states: "Applications and preliminary selection are
in the hands of the World HQ of the Over-Seas League, London.
These are co-ordinated by our Hon Migration Secretary, Mr Cyril
Bavin OBE... The applications are then passed on to New Zealand
House for verification, whilst final selection made by a Committee
on which is represented the British Government, the New Zealand
Government and the Over-Seas League."
"Unique" aspect of the New Zealand Child
10. Committee members emphasised at their meetings
that they considered New Zealand's Child Migration Scheme to be
unique in that the child migrants were placed under the guardianship
of state authorities.
11. To our knowledge the NZ scheme was not
in fact unique in this respect. For example, although child migrants
to Australia were in the care of various institutions and charitable
organisations, the Department understands they were actually under
the guardianship of state immigration authorities, in accordance
with the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act 1946.
Access to information
12. The Committee Chair mentioned
concerns expressed by FCMs to the Committee in relation to access
to information and questioning of "Why did it happen?".
Information about the initiation of the Child Migration Scheme
is held on Department of Labour and Employment files in New Zealand's
National Archives. It was from these files that the material referred
to earlier was obtained. There is no restriction on access to
these files. Some of this information was also held on this Department's
files and has been made available to a number of the FCMs with
whom the Department has had contact.
14. Issues of access by FCMs
to personal file information now held by the Department of Social
Welfare were also raised. It would be useful to again emphasise
that the Department has, since matters related to the Child Migration
Scheme were first raised, provided information to FCMs in a supportive
manner, and it continues to do so. As an affiliated bureau of
International Social Service the Department can also access additional
The elderly woman who came under an Empire Settlement
15. One case was mentioned by the Committee at all
their meetingsthat of a woman, now aged over 80, who had
come to NZ as a four year old. She had only recently learnt how
she came to be in NZ and that she actually had a family in Britain.
Her story attracted a reasonable level of media attention.
While the Committee is probably aware of this, it would be useful
to reinforce that she would have come to NZ under a scheme operated
by the Salvation Army (in the UK and NZ), under the Empire Settlement
Act 1922 (UK). Some 2,259 juveniles came to NZ between 1924-31
under Empire Settlement Act schemes. She would also be the first
person to have come under this scheme who has come to the attention
of government organisations working with issues related to FCMs
in recent times.
17. The focus has been on the operation of the
Child Migration Scheme (1949-53), and it has been FCMs who came
under this scheme who have sought a response from the NZ Government
to their grievances. To the Department's knowledge, the British
Child Migrant Society (NZ) Inc has not raised issues related to
individuals who came under Empire Settlement Act schemes. The
Department believes there would be relatively few such migrants
Cessation of benefit payments while recipient is
18. During its meeting with officials, the Committee
also sought information about New Zealand's social security system
with respect to the cessation of benefit payments when the beneficiary
is overseas. The cessation of benefit payments where the beneficiary
has been absent longer than 28 days was cited to the Committee
by former child migrants as restricting their ability to make
extended trips to be reunited with family members.
19. This information
is appended, for the Committee Chair.
20. Thank you for your assistance
in this matter and we look forward to learning of progress on
the Committee's inquiry.Faith Denny, Manager
Government Social Services
Social Services Policy Group
3 July 1998
Benefit entitlement and overseas travel
The provisions relating to the effect of the absence of a superannuitant
or beneficiary from New Zealand on their eligibility for a benefit
or NZ superannuation (NZS) are contained is section 77 of the
Social Security Act 1964 and sections 17, 17A, and 18 of the Social
Welfare (Transitional Provisions) Act 1990. In effect there are
two different regimes. The first applies to (NZS) and the Veteran's
Pension, while the second applies to all other benefits.
respect to the situation of FCMs travelling to the United Kingdom,
it is expected the relevant forms of support would largely be
NZS and the transitional retirement benefit.
3. NZS is currently
available at age 63 years and six months. The age of eligibility
increases by three months for every six calendar months that go
by, until it reaches 65 years on 1 April 2001.
4. The transitional
retirement benefit (TRB) is an income tested benefit intended
to recognise the circumstances of people who were approaching
age 60 when the increase in the age of eligibility for NZS was
announced. The age of eligibility for the TRB is currently 62
years and is increasing by three months for every six calendar
months until the age of 64 years and nine months is reached in
2003. The rate of payment is higher than the unemployment benefit,
and is equivalent to the invalid's benefit rate.
New Zealand Superannuation and the Veteran's Pension
The provisions of the NZS and the Veteran's Pension relating
to absence from New Zealand are relatively generous. This reflects
the fact that NZS and the Veteran's Pension are intended for a
different group of recipients to work tested benefits. In particular,
retired people are not expected to necessarily remain in the country
to receive NZS or Veteran's Pension.
6. NZS and the Veteran's
Pension are payable overseas for up to 26 weeks provided that:
the total absence was not more than 30 weeks;
the Director General is satisfied that the person
was kept out of the country by reasons beyond their control; or
the Director General is satisfied that the person
was overseas because their spouse or child was receiving medical
treatment paid for by the New Zealand Ministry of Health.
the current provisions enable former child migrants to spend up
to 30 weeks in succession overseas without endangering their eligibility
for NZS, provided that they remain ordinarily resident in New
8. In the case of the United Kingdom there is a bilateral
agreement in place. This agreement provides for residence in New
Zealand to be counted as Class III contributions in the United
Kingdom for a person applying for a United Kingdom basic pension.
Thus, a FCM retiring to the United Kingdom would be eligible for
a United Kingdom basic pension.
9. The provisions for other benefits
relating to absence from New Zealand are much more stringent than
the provisions for NZS. This reflects the fact that income tested
benefits are primarily aimed at preventing or alleviating hardship.
Extensive overseas travel is not considered compatible with the
requirement to be actively seeking work associated with some benefits.
However, because the specific obligations vary from benefit to
benefit, the criteria relating to overseas travel also vary.
The transitional retirement benefit and widows or domestic purposes
benefits that are not work tested, are payable for up to four
weeks while overseas provided that the absence would not otherwise
effect eligibility for that benefit.
11. The sickness, training,
unemployment, independent youth, and emergency benefit, along
with work tested widows or domestic purposes benefits, are payable
overseas for up to four weeks if the beneficiary is required to
be overseas for humanitarian reasons.
12. The invalid's benefit
is payable for up to six weeks while overseas provided that the
absence would not otherwise affect eligibility for that benefit.
A benefit may be payable overseas for a period of up to two years
if the Director General is satisfied that:
(a) the beneficiary, their spouse, sibling, or
dependent child is receiving medical attention overseas for which
the Ministry of Health is providing assistance;
(b) the beneficiary is receiving vocational or
guide dog training, but only if: (i) he or she is in receipt
of the invalid's benefit due to blindness; and
(ii) the Director General is satisfied that
the person could not obtain the training in New Zealand during
the period of absence.
14. In summary, most recipients of income
tested benefits would lose their benefit eligibility after 4 weeks
of absence from New Zealand. However, the current legislation
provides for an absence from New Zealand of up to four weeks for
humanitarian reasons in the case of beneficiaries who would otherwise
not be able to leave New Zealand at all and maintain their benefit