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Labour: Into The Next Century

Labour: Into The Next Century

ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman today released new information showing that of the top five Sickness Benefit debts, only one will take under a century to repay, and said the Government must answer serious questions about the management of our welfare system.

"The top Sickness Benefit debt is $147,889.91 which, under current repayment rates, will take more than 189 years to pay back. Information released by the Minister shows that four of five of these cases have been prosecuted. While the nature of that prosecution is unknown, it would be unacceptable if the punishment was simply to repay debt at $15 per week," Dr Newman said.

"The Government must also tell the public how these beneficiaries managed to fraudulently obtain so much. Surely, debts of more than $100,000 cannot be the simple result of inefficient monitoring.

"These debts will take more than a century to repay. The lowest - $119,260.08 at $35 a week - will take more than 65 years. What is the Government doing to ensure these debts are recovered? Are the culprits being rehabilitated and moved into work, to ensure these debts can be repaid more quickly? Or have they simply been abandoned, to repay a paltry $15 a week until the day they die?

"With the Government implementing the demands of the Beneficiaries Unions - which include lowering debt repayment rates and writing off benefit debt - the latter seems more likely, and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will never be recovered.

"It is unacceptable that the taxpayer should be so out of pocket - made so by people who are, supposedly, too sick to work. I demand that Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey tell the public just how this ludicrous situation came about, and what he intends to do about it," Dr Newman said.

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