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Turner: National benefit plan won't work

Tuesday, 27 July, 2004

Turner: National benefit plan won't work

National's plan to make sickness beneficiaries see designated doctors won't solve the problem of an increasing number of people moving on to this benefit, according to United Future social services spokeswoman Judy Turner.

"There's a very simple reason why it won't work. Invalids beneficiaries have to see designated doctors, and their numbers have also increased at an alarming rate.

"Since 1999, invalids beneficiaries have increased by 35%, from 53,332 to 71,747. That's a bigger increase, in real and percentage terms, than the number of sickness beneficiaries - up from 33,257 to 43,473, or 31% - over the same period."

Mrs Turner has challenged the Government repeatedly over this issue in the past year.

"Against these facts, and the corresponding fall in the number of those on the dole, Katherine Rich's speech at the recent National Party Conference seemed to be focused almost entirely on tougher measures for the unemployed, such as work for the dole.

"Designated doctors for sickness beneficiaries was conspicuously absent from that speech, nor was it specifically mentioned in National's discussion document on welfare released last year.

"It does make you wonder how National formulates its welfare policy.

"In light of the fact that people presenting with psychological conditions have been the biggest driver behind the increase in invalids and sickness benefits, and also make up the largest category of these beneficiaries, they need to be assessed by mental health specialists rather than designated or non-designated general practitioners.

"And in general, those who claim a sickness or invalids benefits should be required to undergo some sort of appropriate treatment for their illness, something that I was surprised to learn is not currently the case," Mrs Turner said.

ENDS

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