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Sickness benefits out of control

Sickness benefits out of control

Tuesday 4 Jan 2005

Dr Muriel Newmann - Press Releases - Social Welfare

ACT Deputy Leader and Social Services spokesman Dr Muriel Newman today released figures showing the numbers receiving a sickness benefit have accelerated dramatically under Labour.

Official information provided to Dr Newman shows the number of people receiving a sickness benefit has grown 38 percent from 32,868 on 29 November 1999 to 45,569 on 29 November 2004.

"We have a government boasting about record-low unemployment but the reality is that under its stewardship, even with a critical shortage of labour, welfare numbers are not declining in the way we would expect. Instead, more and more people are being allowed to shift from the dole onto the sickness benefit - to avoid work-testing - at great speed and with no accountability."

Dr Newman said another alarming trend was the number of people who had been on the sickness benefit for 10 or more years.

"The sickness benefit is meant to provide temporary support to people while they get well enough to go back to work. The fact that the long-term numbers have risen 63 percent from 3,322 to 5,415 in the same period shows that the Government is not only failing these sickness beneficiaries, but also taxpayers who are forced to foot the bill."

Late last year the ACT MP revealed figures show the number of people granted a sickness benefit for stress or depression had increased 128 percent in five years - from 5,354 in October 1999, to 12,228 in October 2004.

"We have too many able-body people signing up to a sickness benefit and languishing there for years. ACT believes people should be proactively rehabilitated into the workforce, but Labour's not even interested in trying.

"These very depressing figures show that we are not a sicker society but rather Labour is increasingly soft on welfare. This Government is only interested in building a culture of welfare dependency and entrenching it into the New Zealand way of life," Dr Newman said.

ENDS

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