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Universal Benefit Doomed

“Vague indications by the Minister of Social Services and Employment, Steve Maharey, of a move to a universal benefit are doomed, and will cost hundreds of millions of dollars’’ says ACT Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman.

“Unless there is a commitment to seriously increase welfare funding, a universal benefit can never be implemented”.

The present system is based on two core benefits, the Community Wage and the Invalid Benefit, with the Invalids Benefit set at $40.00 a week more.

In addition there are top-up payments for children, housing costs and other special needs.

“These core benefit differentials recognise that people who are genuinely unable to look after themselves deserve more generous support than those who are temporarily unemployed and need a hand up to work.”

“The concept of a universal benefit has been around for years, but the reason it has never been implemented is the enormous cost. Raising 260,000 benefits by$40.00 a week will be an impossibility for a Minister who failed to win any additional funding in the budget.

"This initiative from Mr Maharey has raised expectations, but is doomed to fail. The Minister is developing a track record for doing just that."

“He wanted to sack Christine Rankin, but she is still solidly there”.

“He wanted to split the employment and welfare staff within WINZ, but has now abandoned it.

“He opposed the last government’s creation of Regional Commissioners, and yet has now claimed them as his own.”

“While the Minister is talking big and failing to deliver, his biggest responsibility, long term unemployment is deteriorating rapidly.”

“At the end of June 1997, the number of people registered as being unemployed for over one year was 50,000.

“In June of this year, it was 101,000 - increasing 13,000 in Mr Maharey’s first six months.”

“I guarantee that in two more years not only will Mr Maharey not have delivered a universal benefit, but that under his stewardship the numbers of registered long term unemployed will have blown out to a record 150,000” concluded Muriel Newman.


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