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Young ex-prostitute denied youth benefit

Young ex-prostitute denied youth benefit

A young 17-year-old woman trying to turn her back on prostitution and create a new future for herself is being refused an Independent Youth Benefit, Green Party Social Services Spokesperson Sue Bradford said today.

"This is outrageous and unjust," Ms Bradford said. "When the young and vulnerable have no means of support and are denied Government assistance, it is little wonder they turn to prostitution or other forms of crime. It is a survival issue."

Ms Bradford today asks a Parliamentary question on the issue. "It is a nonsense that a young woman, who only turned to prostitution on Auckland's streets because she had no other means of support, is now being denied living expenses assistance while she seeks to get more job skills.

"How is she supposed to get further education or job-hunt when she can't even afford to buy food? This young woman was kicked out of home when she was 15 and first applied for a benefit in 2001. Her Work and Income case worker told her then her best bet would be to get pregnant."

Ms Bradford said it was ludicrously hard for young people to qualify for the Independent Youth Benefit (IYB). "The law must be changed so that the IYB is more readily available to young people in need, and so that unsupported young people aged 16 and 17 are eligible for unemployment or sickness benefits.

"It is not just income support these young people need - it is all forms of support. Telling a young person who is fighting for survival that they don't qualify for a subsistence benefit is effectively telling them they are not worth anything."

Ms Bradford said the Labour Government in 1990 stopped 16 and 17-year-olds being eligible for the unemployment benefit. "This is a very vulnerable age group, and not everyone aged 16 and 17 has the support of their parents.

The Green Party will continue to put pressure on the Government till it comes to its senses on this issue." Ms Bradford is a strong supporter of the Prostitution Reform Bill, which seeks to decriminalise prostitution, and has its second reading in the House today.

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