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Nelson M.P. Nick Smith is intervening to try and sort out a shock demand from Government for repayment of about $17,000 for a young teacher and Mum.

“This is appalling treatment of a young teacher and new mother, Jasmine Jenke and her husband Matt should be enjoying becoming parents for the first time but instead are stressed to the maximum over demands for thousands of dollars from Government they cannot afford to pay.”

Jasmine, a teacher at Waimea College, received the demand for about $17,000 on 30th August from the school’s payroll scheme. The letter, the first she knew of any problem, says she was placed on the incorrect pay scale step in January 2014 while teaching at Papatoetoe College, that error has been carried through, resulting in her now having a huge debt. The letter states the debt has been placed with the Debt Management Unit for recovery with options for immediate or repayment over 26 pay instalments.

“The timing of this demand for payment could not have come at a worse time for Jasmine and Matt with the birth of their first child Fynn arriving only one week later. Jasmine is taking time six months paid maternity leave but this is half of her normal teacher’s salary. There is no way the couple can repay this $17,000 either immediately or over the 26 pay periods being demanded by the Government. We need to be giving young families every support possible at this precious time rather than piling on the financial pressure with sort of bureaucratic bungle.”

“The stress has been compounded by poor service with neither the teacher, College nor myself being able to get any response to our queries from School’s Payroll Service. We have repeatedly phoned, got a pre-recorded message saying they are not available and without any option to leave a message. This sort of sloppy service is just making a bad problem worse.”

“I am going hard into bat for this young family. It is not the fault of Jasmine, nor Waimea College that the School Payroll system put her on the wrong scale over 5 years ago. I cannot believe any other employer would be so callous to suddenly demand a young mum pay back around $17,000 because of an error they made over 5 years ago. The right thing to do here is for this Government  agency is to accept it made a mistake, write off the over payment, put Jasmine onto the right pay scale when she returns to teaching and let this family focus on the needs of their new baby.”

Jasmine contacted Dr Smith last week and they met at the market on Saturday. He has written to the School’s Payroll Service and the Minister of Education.

“I am seeking urgent resolution. This young family need to be relieved of this financial worry as quickly as possible so they can focus on giving young Fynn the best possible start to life.”

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