Paid parental leave dad does a run­ner

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

A fa­ther who suc­cess­fully lob­bied the Gov­ern­ment for parental leave af­ter his part­ner died has done a run­ner, leav­ing the baby be­hind.

Ran­giora man Keith Fal­coner’s part­ner died fol­low­ing the birth of their child. She had been hav­ing trou­ble breath­ing dur­ing the preg­nancy so was taken to hos­pi­tal, but her heart stopped af­ter she ar­rived and their child was born by emer­gency Cae­sarean sec­tion at 33 weeks.

Fal­coner’s part­ner had not been work­ing in the 12 months be­fore she gave birth so she was not en­ti­tled to parental leave pay­ments, which meant they could not be trans­ferred to Fal­coner fol­low­ing her death.

The same day Fal­coner went to the me­dia with his story in May, Work­place Re­la­tions Min­is­ter Iain Lees-Galloway con­firmed the Ran­giora fa­ther would re­ceive a ‘‘one-off’’ ex-gra­tia pay­ment equiv­a­lent to the paid parental leave en­ti­tle­ment he would have re­ceived as the pri­mary carer.

Joanne Man­era, a rel­a­tive of Fal­coner’s part­ner, said he vis­ited his son a hand­ful of times in a Christchurch hos­pi­tal af­ter his part­ner’s death, but then did a run­ner and left the baby in the hos­pi­tal.

Man­era said it was not un­til the fam­ily re­ceived a call from Oranga Ta­mariki that they knew what hap­pened. The fam­ily then filed a miss­ing per­son’s re­port.

Can­ter­bury ru­ral area com­man­der Glenn Nalder said po­lice had been con­tacted by an as­so­ciate of Fal­coner who had con­cerns about him.

‘‘We no longer hold those con­cerns from a po­lice per­spec­tive,’’ Nalder said.

Man­era, who al­ready had two of the de­ceased woman’s chil­dren in her care, is now look­ing af­ter the baby.

‘‘I feel re­ally great. Ev­ery­one said [the chil­dren are] re­ally lucky, I said I’m the lucky one.

‘‘I don’t dis­like [Fal­coner] or any­thing. I just can’t be­lieve what he did to the chil­dren.’’

Fal­coner told Stuff in an email that he was yet to re­ceive any money from the Gov­ern­ment. He said he left Christchurch as it was men­tally over­whelm­ing.

‘‘It was and still is the hard­est, most dif­fi­cult thing one can ever do, it is hor­ri­ble and dif­fi­cult to cope.’’

‘‘Ev­ery day I think about my son and what has hap­pened; it makes me very sick ev­ery day. Did I take on too much? Who knows, have there been mis­takes made while han­dling this sit­u­a­tion – yes.’’

Min­istry of Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment (MBIE) em­ploy­ment ser­vices gen­eral man­ager Ge­orge Ma­son said agen­cies had been deal­ing with Fal­coner in ‘‘good faith’’ dur­ing an ex­tremely dif­fi­cult time for him and his fam­ily.

‘‘MBIE of­fered a pay­ment op­tion to en­sure Mr Fal­coner was not dis­ad­van­taged com­pared to other New Zealan­ders who have a new baby in a work­ing house­hold, and who qual­ify for a parental leave pay­ment.

‘‘The of­fer is con­tin­gent on es­tab­lish­ing that Mr Fal­coner’s cir­cum­stances are sim­i­lar in nature to other po­ten­tially el­i­gi­ble New Zealan­ders. The of­fer re­mains open on that ba­sis,’’ Ma­son said.

Fal­coner ear­lier said he was ‘‘stunned’’ by the de­ci­sion to grant him the money.

‘‘My first thought was ‘wow, this is in­cred­i­ble’,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s an ex­traor­di­nar­ily gen­er­ous move by the Gov­ern­ment.

‘‘[But] I still don’t know any­thing about what’s hap­pen­ing, which is bizarre in its own way.’’

Lees-Galloway said ear­lier a sit­u­a­tion like Fal­coner’s had not arisen be­fore.

‘‘This has ex­posed a gap in the leg­is­la­tion, which is some­thing we will need to ad­dress. But more im­me­di­ately, I’m pleased to say we have found a so­lu­tion for him,’’ he said.

‘‘Staff worked in­cred­i­bly hard to find a so­lu­tion within the leg­is­la­tion and they couldn’t, so they have now found a work around and we will now need to look at the leg­is­la­tion,’’ Lees-Galloway said.

Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern said at the time she was so con­cerned about the case that she read through the leg­is­la­tion.

‘‘I think ev­ery­one wants to see that sup­port in place and I have to say I was baf­fled when I read it,’’ she told re­porters at Par­lia­ment.

‘‘No-one would agree that this is a good out­come.’’

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