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Minister Caught Out

Minister Caught Out

Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey is guilty of one of two things - he either misled Parliament, or is simply not on top of his own portfolio, ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said today.

"When asked in the House about beneficiaries transferring between the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits, Mr Maharey stated that: `there has been no migration at all from people going from the Unemployment Benefit to these forms of benefits'. But answers to my written Parliamentary Questions show otherwise," Dr Newman said.

"These figures show that, in the year 2000, 11,552 people transferred from the Unemployment Benefit. In the following year, 12,596 transferred, increasing to 13,052 last year. That means that, in total, 37,200 transfers from the Unemployment Benefit to the Sickness Benefit occurred over the past three years - a far cry from the Minister's figure of zero.

"This raises a serious question about what is really going on in Government. By stating that there has been no transfer from the Unemployment Benefit to the Sickness Benefit, when official figures show that more than 37,000 people have so transferred, the Minister appears to be misleading Parliament and the public.

"It is simply not good enough that Mr Maharey understates the problem of increasing numbers of people moving from the dole to the Sickness Benefit - especially since the dole is work-tested, and the Sickness Benefit is not.

"The Sickness Benefit should only be available to people who are sick, not for people who want to avoid the work test. Further, eligibility for the Sickness Benefit should be tightened, and a rehabilitation plan put in place to assist people to move back onto the dole.

"To begin with, however, Mr Maharey should apologise for his gaff, and get himself properly briefed on welfare numbers," Dr Newman said.

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