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Govt ignoring growing youth benefit problem

Thursday, 24 June, 2004

Turner: Govt ignoring growing youth benefit problem

The Government needs to stop patting itself on the back about falling youth unemployment numbers and face the fact that there has been a huge movement to invalid and sickness benefits in the same age group, United Future's Judy Turner said today.

Speaking after tackling Associate Social Development Minister Rick Barker in Parliament today, Mrs Turner said the Government was not even beginning to address the fact that the number of young people on sickness and invalid benefits has jumped by a third since 2000.

"I revealed these figures just two weeks ago. The silence from the Government has been deafening," she said.

Since 2000, the number of under-twenties on the sickness benefit has increased by 34%, from 1156 to 1554. Those on the invalids benefit have increased by 28%, from 1884 to 2403.

"The good news is that the number of the people under 20 on the unemployment benefit and the DPB have declined significantly," Mrs Turner said.

"But that is hugely tempered by the real concern that more young people than ever are not in work due to some ailment or disorder.

Mrs Turner said the youth figures were consistent with a disturbing upwards trend in the total number of sickness and invalid beneficiaries over the same period - up 31% and 34% respectively.

"Young people, who should be at the height of fitness and health, are being consigned to the benefit before they have even really begun their working lives," she said.

Mrs Turner has consistently advocated proper psychiatric assessment of such claimants, rather than the GP assessments currently used.

"General practitioners are often well outside their zone in making these assessments," she said.

ENDS

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