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Simplified benefit system roll-out begins in May

22 February 2005

Simplified benefit system roll-out begins in May

Work to implement a simpler, fairer benefit system will begin in May this year, Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey announced today.

"A single core benefit and enhanced employment services will replace the current raft of benefits, rules and entitlements," Steve Maharey said.

"The change to a single benefit, with one set of criteria, will dramatically reduce the time spent on administration, allowing case managers to focus more on moving people from dependency to work.

"From May this year the new service delivery model will be piloted in eleven centres around the country. Legislation for a single core benefit will be drafted and introduced this year.

"This is a system designed to meets the needs of the 21st century. We will see fewer rules, but more sophisticated assessments and services tailored to individuals."

Key features of the new system include: A single core benefit with one set of rates and one set of eligibility criteria Add-ons to support people with higher costs because of things like accommodation, childcare, or disability. An enhanced employment service with two distinct streams: The rapid return to fulltime work stream for people who are ready and able to work and need the right services to get them there. Also included will be people for whom a return to work will take slightly longer, for example, people in work-focused training, or who are temporarily unable to work for health reasons. The work, development and preparation stream for people who need a more gradual transition to full-time work, or for whom part-time or intermittent work is a realistic long-term option. People in this stream will have work-focused requirements, such as planning and assessment, to help them return to work as circumstances allow.

"No one will be financially worse off as a result of these changes. The focus is on better services to help even more people back into work. People who are unable to work because of serious health problems or disabilities will continue to be exempt from any work expectations."

Steve Maharey said the changes were a world first and would be the most significant reforms of New Zealand's welfare system since 1938.

"With unemployment at record lows and a strong labour market there has never been a better time to refocus the benefit system. These changes will help meet the challenge of filling the jobs created by a growing economy."

ENDS


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