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Govt must get tough on benefit switching

Govt must get tough on benefit switching

United Future social services spokeswoman Judy Turner today called for swift action from the Government following the release of Treasury figures showing spiralling numbers of sickness and invalid beneficiaries.

"At a time when unemployment is at very low levels, we have 18 percent more people of working age on a benefit than we did in 1991 - and that was when unemployment was at its peak," Mrs Turner said.

"And with the biggest increase being in sickness and invalid benefits, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that perhaps 'lifestyle beneficiaries' are seeing the sickness benefit as an easier option when a skills shortage makes it harder to avoid work."

Treasury projections indicate that sickness and invalid benefits will rise to one-third of all benefits, she said.

Last month, Mrs Turner revealed that 13,000 people moved from the dole to the sickness benefit last year - a 13 percent increase since 2000.

"It's time this Government stopped relying on anecdotal evidence and dubious theories, and seriously addressed this issue before sickness and invalid beneficiaries reach epidemic proportions - because that is where it's headed," she said.

"One of the biggest problems is that we don't have data about the types of ailments and conditions suffered by those on a sickness benefit.

"And how many people are on such a benefit because of a drug problem?

"The New Zealand sense of fair play underpins the welfare system, but hard-working families will punish the Government if it is seen to be turning a blind eye to work-shy malingerers.

"Benefits are for those who need them, not those who want them," she said.

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