Orphan’s Benefit and the Unsupported Child’s Benefit – follow up survey

Published: February 17, 2022

This report presents the findings from a survey of around 1,300 caregivers receiving the Orphan’s Benefit (OB) or the Unsupported Child’s Benefit (UCB) with the aim of understanding children and their caregivers, and the extra help that they might need.


The Orphan’s Benefit is a weekly payment which helps carers supporting a child whose parents have died, can’t be found, or can’t look after them because of a long-term health condition or incapacity. The Unsupported Child’s Benefit is a weekly payment to help carers supporting a child whose parents can’t care for them because of family breakdown.

The survey included the following topics:

  • The profile and needs of children and young people
  • The extra help that is needed for children and caregivers, and where children and caregivers may be receiving help from
  • The awareness of the School and Year Start-up Payment and the Extraordinary Care Fund
  • The financial costs and challenges of raising a child

Changes in support since 2019

The OB and UCB rates increased by $25 a week from 6 July 2020.  These increases were automatically paid – caregivers didn’t need to do anything to receive the increase.

The following changes have been announced:

  • Providing OB and UCB caregivers with Birthday and Christmas Allowances

Amending the eligibility criteria to enable short-term caregivers to access the OB and UCB. This is in response to the uncertainty that often exists around the length of time caregivers need to provide care to children

This is the second time these groups of caregivers have been asked what they need to provide stable and loving homes for children. Read the first survey engagement from 2019.

Key findings

The demographic profile of the 2021 survey sample is similar to the 2019 profile. Around half (52%) of OB caregivers identified as Māori, one in nine (11%) identified as Pacific, and two in five (42%) identified as NZ European. Around half (52%) of UCB caregivers identified as Māori, half (50%) identified as NZ European, and one in ten (10%) identified as Pacific.

Key changes in survey results since 2019

Orphan Benefit Caregivers (120 caregivers responded)

  • Engagement in community activities for OB children has declined over the last 12 months (possibly in response to COVID-19 and lockdowns)
  • OB caregivers were less likely to need support in the last 12 months than in 2019
  • Perceived adequacy of the OB has improved since the $25 rate increase in 2020
  • Awareness of the Extraordinary Care Fund has dropped, but application rates remain steady
  • Awareness of the School and Year Start-up payment has declined
  • The strongest predictors of OB caregiver stress include the caregiver needing help with the nominated child’s intellectual difficulties, the caregiver needing to contribute their own money to help cover the costs of the nominated child, and the caregiver needing help with responding to the nominated child’s behaviour

Unsupported Child’s Benefit Caregivers (1180 caregivers responded)

  • UCB caregivers’ views of the nominated child’s wellbeing has worsened slightly reflecting the older age profile of children
  • UCB children are less engaged in some activities than in 2019 (possibly in response to COVID-19 and lockdowns) 
  • The UCB caregiver demographic profile in 2021 is older and skewed towards those receiving a main benefit
  • More support is needed for the child’s mental and emotional health in 2021
  • Income adequacy has improved for UCB caregivers receiving a main benefit, but remains unchanged for other caregivers
  • Awareness of the Extraordinary Care Fund has dropped, but application rates remain unaffected
  • Over a third of caregivers aware of the School and Year Start-up payment feel the payment is not enough
  • Awareness of the Permanent Caregiver Support Service is low
  • Māori and Pacific caregivers had lower levels of awareness of the financial support that is available

The strongest predictors of caregiver stress include support needed for the nominated child’s mental and emotional health, the caregiver identifying as Māori, support needed for whānau visits, and caregivers caring for multiple children