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Govt’s Soft Approach On Welfare is Causing Damage

Govt’s Soft Approach On Welfare is Causing Damage

Friday 30th Mar 2001 Dr Muriel Newman Media Release -- Social Welfare

The Government is damaging New Zealand and its people with its soft approach to welfare, ACT Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman told a meeting in Newmarket, Auckland tonight.

“All around the world, countries are looking at welfare reform and measures which get people out of the benefit trap. Here, under this Government, we are saying it’s fine to be on the benefit and to succumb to a lifestyle of dependency with all the social problems that creates.

“This Government has been listening far too closely to the benefit advocate organisations. It paid out $34,000 last year on a conference for the various groups,” Dr Newman said. She highlighted examples of where the Government had yielded to lobbying from the advocates.

“The Benefit Crime Unit, in typical PC-spin fashion had its name changed, at a cost of $10,000 to the Benefit Control Unit. The watered-down name has produced watered-down results. Following ridiculous new rules requiring welfare fraud investigators to warn fraud suspects about visits to their homes there was a reported $17 million drop in the amount of identified welfare debt in a six month period. The amount of money identified had in any case been seen as the tip of the iceberg in terms of the true rate of fraud.

“Even the stance on debt recovery has been softened after approaches by the advocacy groups. Some 2872 cases where people were paying off $40 or more a week have been reviewed. In nearly two thirds of those cases the rate of repayment has been reduced.

“The Government has removed the remote area policy which previously deterred people who moved to areas where they knew their job prospects would be limited, from claiming or continuing to receive benefits.

“The Government has softened the sanctions that can be taken against people who don’t turn up, or don’t turn up on time for training programmes. The work for dole scheme – arguably the most successful jobs scheme – has been scrapped.

“The Minister has presided over, and done nothing about, a continuing rise – to 15,000 - of mothers on benefits not naming the fathers of their children. One in seven women on the DPB have now not named the fathers. A conservative estimate is that $1 million a week in child support is being lost.

“This softness is coming at a price. The Government is budgeting for an extra $1.5 billion on welfare over the next three years. That’s more extra money than will be committed to health and education together.It is time this country faced up to the fact that we are sinking into a morass of welfare dependency. Only firm, positive policies will get us out of it,” Dr Newman said.

ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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