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Govt admits benefit work-test removal a disaster

Government admits removing work-test for benefits a disaster

The Government's reversal on work testing for sickness and invalid beneficiaries is a massive back-down, says National's social services spokesperson Katherine Rich.

"Labour scrapped National's capacity testing and Steve Maharey has spent years lecturing the public on why it didn't work. Now Steve Maharey is bringing it back, but with a different name. Perhaps it is because of opinion polls showing that Labour's soft attitude to welfare is completely out of touch with the public.

"The Minister can call his new work-testing programme "capacity testing" or whatever he chooses but only a moron would believe that it is anything other than a work test by another name.

"Labour's removal of work testing was a step backwards for welfare in New Zealand and the burgeoning sickness and invalids rolls are the direct result.

"In 3 short years over 14,500 people have been added to the invalids benefit register and over 5000 people to the sickness benefit register. That's an increase of over 20% - a rate that cannot be explained by population growth or expected rates of illness and sickness.

"Despite having enjoyed the best economic conditions in a generation, both benefits are predicted by Treasury to increase dramatically. Unless significant reforms are implemented our economy will continue to buckle under the increasing welfare problem. The cost for Invalid Benefits is predicted to increase from $830 million to $1.2 billion by 2007 [1].

"While National welcomes the Minister's acceptance that work-testing must play a part in getting beneficiaries into some kind of work, his ideological opposition to the use of sanctions means that his powder-puff version of work-testing is unlikely to achieve much.

"WINZ Case Managers tell me that as a result of Labour's relaxation of the welfare system, they are powerless to do anything in the face of a beneficiary who can contribute but refuses to do so," said Mrs Rich.

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