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Opposition Welfare Time-Warp Would Increase Povert

21 May 2002

Moves by National and Act to introduce time-limited benefits would increase poverty in New Zealand and would not help beneficiaries permanently move off welfare into work, Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey told Parliament this afternoon.

National candidate Don Brash last week advocated placing time limits on welfare, with Act MP Muriel Newman saying at the weekend her party would place 5 year lifetime limits on the DPB and unemployment benefits.

Steve Maharey said international research showed both policies would plunge children into growing poverty and would not assist beneficiaries into permanent jobs.

“Advocating hard line work-first reform defies the evidence. While it may sound tough to attack beneficiaries real solutions rely on lifting skills, ensuring there are job opportunities and putting in place policies that make work pay.

“Research from the London School of Economics (refer Welfare to Work, http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/case/publications/casebriefs.asp) shows that two thirds of people moving off welfare in Wisconsin fall below the poverty line. Things are predicted to get even worse with many families now reaching the welfare time limit and slipping into appalling poverty.

“The research, however, is encouraging in that it notes a US trend to move away from simplistic work first models – instead providing flexible opportunity-based programmes – similar to the successful reforms undertaken by this government.

“Record numbers are being placed into work under the Labour-Alliance Government. In 1998/99 there were 204,000 people on the equivalent of unemployment and sickness benefits – this is now predicted to drop by 28,000 during the 2002/03 year.

“Our approach is working and it behoves those who aspire to replace this government to put up serious alternatives, rather than demonise beneficiaries with policies which have proven to be a failure,” Steve Maharey said.

Ends

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