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Line on sickness, invalid benefits doesn’t add up

Turner: Govt line on sickness, invalid benefits doesn’t stack up

The Government’s explanation for the sharp increase in sickness and invalid beneficiaries isn’t supported by its own data, United Future social services spokeswoman Judy Turner said today.

Government figures show that the number of sickness beneficiaries has increased by 36%, from 32,648 in 2000 to 44,536 at the end of September, this year. Over the same period, the number of invalid beneficiaries increased by 28%, from 56,846 to 73,191.

Associate Social Development and Employment Minister Rick Barker had earlier claimed these figures reflected an aging population, but closer inspection shows otherwise, Mrs Turner said.

“As a proportion of the total number of sickness beneficiaries, those over 50 have only increased from 32% to 33.7% since 2000, and as a proportion of the total number of invalid beneficiaries, those over 50 have actually decreased from 41% to 40%.”

When Mrs Turner put this to Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey in Parliament this afternoon, he said the numbers were also inflated by the increase in the retirement age to 65.

“Again, sorry, but no cigar,” Mrs Turner said.

“The Government’s own figures show that this argument doesn’t stack up. Yes, the number of sickness and invalids beneficiaries over 60 years of age have increased by 1558 and 5855 respectively, but what about the other 10,128 new sickness beneficiaries and 14,991 new invalid beneficiaries?”

“The Government needs to stop the excuses and admit that the increases are across the board and therefore indicative of a much more fundamental problem with these benefits,” Mrs Turner said.

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