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Welfare Reform Bill Sent To Select Committee

The Social Security (Youth Support and Work Focus) Amendment Bill which brings in tighter requirements for youth and sole parent benefits has completed its first reading.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said during the debate that the welfare system was failing society with youths paid benefits and left to spend it.

Bennett said generations were getting trapped in welfare dependency from when they became teenagers many of them as parents.

The bill would mean the Government would no longer ``just dish out’’ money to youths, but instead would move to manage youth beneficiaries with financial assistance tied to obligations such as the need to work or be in training.

Parts of benefits would be tied to certain expenditure – such as rent - and also attending courses on parenting and budgeting skills, Bennett said.

Sole parents were also being ``let down’’ by the system and the bill would mean they would have to be available for work when their children were at a younger age – five for part time work and 14 for full time work.

Labour’s Grant Robertson said what was failing New Zealanders was the Government’s inability to create jobs for people to have.

National was more interested in finding small groups to blame

``What will make welfare more unattractive is jobs,’’ Robertson said ``What this legislation does is blame.’’

The Government said the changes would save $1 billion dollars over five years, but that was just a guess, he said.

It was extraordinary that the regulatory impact statement provided with the bill had a sentence removed which was unacceptable.

The bill completed its first reading by 64 to 57 with National, Maori Party, ACT and United Future supporting

The bill was sent to the Social Services Committee for consideration to be reported back by May 31.

Bennett said the shortened time frame justified as National had signalled its intentions for some time.

MPs began the second reading debate on the Student Loan Scheme Amendment Bill.

**
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