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Collins gets desperate in attempt to mislead


20 September 2006

Collins gets desperate in attempt to mislead

Judith Collins has once again misled the New Zealand public with her recent comments on the serious issue of stress related illness, Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope said today.

“The National Party knows they can’t attack the government’s success in moving people off benefits and into work. Ms Collins is resorting to making misleading comments about a very small group of people with high needs,” said Mr Benson-Pope.

“The Labour-led Government has succeeded in reducing stress related sickness benefit numbers. Ms Collins would know this if she had read the answers provided to the Social Services Select Committee's question on this matter in June.

“Work and Income's well publicised New Service Approach is successfully helping both existing and new Sickness Benefit clients access work opportunities. This fundamental change has been launched publicly as well as discussed at the Social Services Select Committee of which she is a member. Surely Ms Collins’ implied ignorance on this subject can't just be an oversight.

“Contrary to Ms Collins claims that nothing is being done, she has withheld a wealth of information contained in answers to recent written parliamentary questions on specific steps taken to assist Work and Income clients with mental health issues, including programmes like Procare and Workwise.

“Ms Collins has already been caught out on her previous misleading statements about PATHS and benefit numbers, as have her colleagues Jo Goodhew and Craig Foss. When will the National Party ever get it right?

“If Ms Collins spent more time keeping the public, and herself properly informed on these issues, her party would have more credibility,” said Mr Benson-Pope.

“The Labour-led government is committed to getting New Zealanders off benefits and into employment. This has been proven by the fall in total benefit numbers by 30% since 1999.

“It’s obvious the National Party doesn’t like success. But it’s a shame they must resort to misinformation on such serious issues.”

Attached: Information submitted to the Social Services Select Committee on 28 June 2006, in response to Question 25 asked as part of the 2006/07 Estimates examination.

Question 25

What is the current number of working-age recipients of the Sickness Benefit (the Sickness Benefit and Sickness Benefit Hardship) due to stress?

The Ministry is providing a more work-focused service, for people in receipt of all benefits. This service provides employment programmes and support services that are tailored to the individual, rather than the benefit they receive. For Sickness and Invalid’s Benefit recipients, this means that some programmes, previously accessed more frequently by people on an Unemployment Benefit, are now more widely available.

The Ministry is already seeing positive results. Over 5,800 more clients exited Sickness and Invalid’s Benefits in the year ended December 2005, than in the year to December 2003. We are finally seeing a decline in the growth rate of Sickness Benefit for stress (-1.38%) and the growth of Invalid’s Benefit for stress has been reducing over the last 6 years. (See table below)

Working Age (18 – 64) Stress Related SB and IB

Year Sickness Benefit % Growth Invalid’s Benefit % Growth
2000 2,833 10.45% 725 30.63%
2001 3,198 12.88% 891 22.90%
2002 3,517 9.97% 1,086 21.89%
2003 4,484 27.50% 1,312 20.81%
2004 5,088 13.47% 1,469 11.97%
2005 5,493 7.96% 1,626 10.69%
2006 5,417 -1.38% 1,684 3.57%

ENDS


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