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Social Services Minister slow to act

Belinda Vernon


National Spokesperson on Work and Income

Sunday 30 July 2000

Social Services Minister slow to act

The Social Services Minister has had eight months to sort out confusion over whether the Special Benefit is discretionary or an entitlement and he's done nothing, National's spokesperson on Work and Income Belinda Vernon said today.

"No-one will believe Steve Maharey's promises today to 'act quickly to clarify' the situation in the wake of a Downtown Community Ministry report.

"The Downtown Community Ministry expressed its concern about the administration of the Special Benefit in a report published in November 1999, released soon after the election of the Labour/Alliance Government. It is now the end of August 2000.

"The Minister's response in the Budget was to remove the $5 deduction from the calculation of the Special Benefit. He did nothing then to address the structure of the benefit or to clarify its status as discretionary or as an entitlement. He has until now completely overlooked the substantive issue.

"The claims of underpayments by beneficiary advocates also highlight the flaws in the Minister's proposals for a universal benefit.

"His universal benefit proposal hinges on discretion to be administered by WINZ case managers. The Minister has said the proposal would increase the discretion of case managers. He is talking about discretion not entitlements.

"If beneficiaries have little confidence in the way the current system of discretion is working now, his plans to introduce a universal benefit supplemented by discretionary top ups will not improve the situation."

Ends

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