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Gap between work and welfare set to shrink

Katherine Rich MP
National Party Welfare Spokesperson

04 June 2003

Gap between work and welfare set to shrink

All Kiwis should be deeply concerned by the Government's plan to erode the income gap between work and welfare still further, according to National Party Welfare spokesperson Katherine Rich.

"Steve Maharey's being forced to trot out the same ideas he had while in Opposition.

"Now into his fourth year as Minister, it's a bit late in the piece to start talking about future plans," Mrs Rich says.

"One would have thought that this sort of work had been started years ago.

"Mr Maharey's talking about making it easier for beneficiaries to navigate what he describes as a 'labyrinth' of top-ups in the welfare system," Mrs Rich says.

"The translation is that Labour wants to make it easier for beneficiaries to get money without mentioning any new focus on helping them back to work.

"It's a startling admission from the Minister that the system he fights so desperately to protect is failing," says Mrs Rich.

"He's admitted there's been massive growth in special benefits up from 7000 to 32,000, meanwhile the cost of special benefits has climbed from $31 million in 1999 to more than $80 million this year," says Mrs Rich.

"The special benefit is supposed to be for extraordinary circumstances.

"It has become an 'ordinary' rather than a 'special' benefit under Labour.

"It's more proof the Government has been hiding the true size of the country's welfare problem.

"If the income gap between work and welfare continues to close, one of the major incentives for someone to find employment will be undermined," Mrs Rich says.

"National believes that work is the only true ticket out of poverty. "This Government has written off the hundreds of thousands of people on welfare as hopeless cases, it must start offering them new opportunities.

"New Zealand taxpayers deserve better and so do beneficiaries," Mrs Rich says.


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