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No surge in Maori domestic purposes beneficiaries

13 October 2003 Media Statement

No ‘surge’ in Maori domestic purposes beneficiaries

Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey is challenging National to clearly set out how it would cut the number of Maori women on the domestic purposes benefit (DPB) – after figures issued by Katherine Rich purporting to show a increase over the past four years have been shown to result from better record keeping by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

Mrs Rich yesterday claimed that there has been a surge of Maori women enrolling for the DPB. In fact the apparent growth is entirely explained by a reclassification of DPB ethnicity statistics. In November 1999 no ethnicity was recorded for 12,386 DPB recipients. By September 2003 records had been updated for 11,208 beneficiaries, leaving only 1,178 DPB recipients for whom the MSD has no ethnicity recorded.

In other words, the supposed ‘growth’ in Maori mothers on the DPB represents less than half of those mothers whose ethnicity has now been properly classified.

Steve Maharey said there has actually been a drop in the number of people receiving the DPB since 1999.

“This is vintage National beneficiary bashing – but this time Katherine Rich has been caught out. After rushing into print foaming about an explosion in Maori women on the DPB, we actually find out that the ‘rise’ is due to MSD tidying up its records.

“Numbers on the DPB have actually fallen by 2,053 since the government has been in office (from 104,199 in November 1999 to 102,146 in September 2003).

“The government wants to see these numbers fall even further, which is why we have introduced rule changes. DPB recipients must now annually agree with their case manager a personal development plan setting out what they are doing to prepare for a return to the workforce when their parenting responsibilities allow. Under National mothers on the DPB were effectively ignored until their child turned six.

“The real question here is what would National do differently. Katherine Rich may talk glibly about “encouraging bigger dreams” but New Zealanders deserve to be told what that actually means. Does it mean cancelling the DPB for mothers thought less deserving? Does it mean forcing them out to work while their children grow up without parental supervision and support? Does it mean making mothers adopt their children out at birth?

“No one actually knows. I have nothing but contempt for National’s attacks on beneficiaries while they fail to tell us what they would do differently,” Steve Maharey said.

ENDS

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