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Bradford blames National for benefit blow-out


29 July, 2004

Bradford blames National for benefit blow-out

Green Party MP, Sue Bradford says National government policies of the 90s are coming home to roost, with increasing numbers of people citing mental health grounds in registering for the sickness or invalids benefit.

Figures obtained by the media from the Ministry of Social Development show 34.8 per cent of all sickness beneficiaries cite some form of psychological condition, prompting a National spokesperson to claim the system was not working and to threaten that a National government would tighten the evaluation system.

"It is totally disingenuous of the National Party to distance itself from any blame for the blow-out in benefits," said Ms Bradford, the Green Social Welfare spokesperson. "It merely shows how out of touch National is with the lives of ordinary people and with the long term impact of their own disastrous policies in the 90s.

"Unemployment itself is a direct cause of major depression, addictions and suicide: the more unemployment there is, and the longer people are out of work, the worse the effects.

"On top of that, deliberate under-funding of mental health services over a prolonged period means many people are suffering more than they need to and has worked to push people onto sickness and invalids benefits."

Ms Bradford noted that a recent study had shown that it was harder for people with disabilities, including those with or recovering from mental illness, to return to the workforce or to get a job in the first place.

"Instead of sniping at the constructive approach of Social Development Minister, Steve Maharey and his department National should come clean on their own 'solution'. Will they make sickness and invalids beneficiaries work for their benefits? Will they slap a time-limit on claiming such benefits?

"National has no interest in actually helping beneficiaries back into better health and back into work," said Sue Bradford. "Like Maori and unions, beneficiaries are an easy target for National's poll-driven policy of vilification and division.

"The real answer to reducing the numbers of beneficiaries lies in better rehabilitation programmes for long term and seriously injured claimants, improved funding and access to physical and mental health services and a change in attitude so that our sick and injured aren't penalised any further for their misfortune."

ENDS

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