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Support for call for emergency benefits discretion

25 July 2001

Greens support call for emergency benefits discretion

The Green Party is supporting a community call for emergency benefits discretion to be given to the head of Work and Income New Zealand, once a Government move to deny benefits to non-resident spouses of New Zealand citizens becomes law.

The Social Security (Residence of Spouses) Amendment Bill passed its second reading in the House yesterday. The Green Party is opposing the bill with the support of the National Party.

"I find it ironic that Labour and Alliance members have to rely on the votes of ACT and NZ First to pass this bill, and I find myself in the unusual position of thanking National for their support.

"This Bill does prevents the spouses and partners of New Zealanders from being able to get benefits if they are sick or unemployed, even if they are lawfully in this country. Once it passes into law, spouses and partners will only be able to receive income support when they have permanent residency," said Ms Bradford.

Ms Bradford said that the actual effect of the Bill would be to reduce the amount of income available per week for people who fall into this spousal category by up to $103 a week for a couple with no children; by $52.35 a week for a couple with one child and by $32.21 a week for a couple with two or more children.

"This may not sound like a lot of money to many MPs and others in professional employment, but to people trying to scrape by on a benefit where every dollar makes a difference, a drop in income of between $32 and $103 a week is critical", she said.

"The Government looks likely to obtain enough votes to make this bill into law. Community groups like the Downtown Community Ministry are proposing a way to help couples who face extra hardship because of this new law: The Chief Executive of Work and Income should have discretion to grant emergency benefits where necessary to people who are legally in New Zealand, but who don't qualify because of the lack of residency.

The Green Party supports giving the Chief Executive of WINZ this discretionary power.

"We are not asking for an automatic right to emergency benefits, but for the Chief Executive to have the discretion to immediately help people who are far from home and who are suffering serious financial hardship because of this new law," said Green Party MP Sue Bradford.

ENDS


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