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Inmates Dole Blunder Shows Soft Welfare Stance

Inmates Dole Blunder Shows Soft Govt Welfare Stance

Monday 7 Jan 2002

ACT Social Services Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman says the mistaken payment of dole to prison inmates is just a further example of this Government's soft stance on welfare. In the year to June 30 the Ministry of Social Development overpaid 4000 prisoners by $2.2 million and in the previous year 2500 by $1.1 million.

"It is of great concern that no one appeared to be monitoring the situation - otherwise the problem of unlawfully paying taxpayers' money to prisoners would have been picked up sooner. It highlights a worrying laissez faire approach by this Government to benefit payment.

"The Minister has developed a reputation for being malleable on welfare issues by acceding one by one to the 131 demands put forward by beneficiary advocacy groups. This includes instigating a soft approach to welfare fraud and debt collection which has resulted in the loss of millions of dollars.

"A further example of this Minister's weak management of the welfare budget is provided by his Social Security (Working Towards Employment) Amendment Bill introduced late last year. In the midst of a bill which is about something else completely, the Minister has slipped in clauses (under a new section 132G) giving wide ranging and discretionary powers for the writing off of benefit debts.

"His approach shows little regard for the need of working New Zealanders who pay the taxes and expect accountability and close monitoring by their Government.

"The Minister should now be making an unequivocal statement that the $2.2 million of taxpayers' money wrongly paid to inmates last year and the $1.1 million the year before will be fully recovered as a matter of urgency.

"ACT firmly believes that the original spirit of welfare - as a short term hand up to work opportunity and independence - should be restored. The future blow-out of welfare spending forecast in this year's Government budget is a concern for all of us, since the burden will fall even more heavily on working New Zealanders. In Government we will take a tough approach to welfare fraud since this undermines the integrity of the whole welfare system," Dr Newman said.


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