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One Small Step For Welfare

One Small Step For Welfare

Wednesday 28 April 2004

Dr Muriel Newman Press Releases -- Social

Labour's new initiatives to assist Sickness and Invalids beneficiaries back into work are laudable but, with the number on these benefits having hit a record 133,000, it may be too little too late, ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said today.

"Answers to written Parliamentary Questions, and ACT research, have revealed that the number of people in receipt of the Sickness and Invalids Benefits has skyrocketed a startling 30,000 since Labour became the Government," Dr Newman said.

"When Labour was elected, 40,188 adults were on the Sickness Benefit, and 62,739 on the Invalids Benefit. Four short years later, that has risen to 50,539 and 83,253 respectively. In just four short years, the number of these benefits has skyrocketed from 102,927 to 133,792.

"Before Mr Maharey became Minister, the relentless rise in Sickness beneficiary numbers had been halted by the benefit's absorption into the Community Wage, and work capacity testing - which evaluated how much a Sickness beneficiary could work each week.

"In opposition, Mr Maharey railed against this - despite the steady decline in Sickness beneficiary numbers. Once Minister, he reversed the move - reinstating the Sickness Benefit as a standalone benefit, at the demand of the Beneficiary Unions - and reversed the decline.

"As a result, we now have record numbers on these benefits. Rather than admit that this is a result of his soft approach to welfare, the Minister tries claim it is part of an international trend - meanwhile reverting to ACT policy in an effort to halt this rapid growth.

"ACT has long said that beneficiaries needing medical treatment in order to work should receive it - but that should not just be for beneficiaries: anyone who has awaited treatment longer than the accepted medical timeframe should be offered private healthcare.

"Not only would this prevent people becoming too ill to work - and get those already on welfare off the benefit - but savings on benefits and ongoing, long-term care, would more than make up for the cost of treatment.

"Using ACT's ideas, to ensure that those needing medical treatment receive it in a timely fashion, will help reduce Sickness and Invalids beneficiary numbers. But, it will do little to reverse the damage that Labour has done, and seen Sickness and Invalids Benefit numbers explode," Dr Newman said.

ENDS

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