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Labour backtracks on universal benefit

Judith Collins MP
National Party Welfare Spokeswoman

26 October 2006

Labour backtracks on universal benefit

National Party Welfare spokeswoman Judith Collins says David Benson-Pope has sent the clearest signal yet that the Government's pledge to deliver a universal benefit to welfare recipients has hit the rocks.

"Labour's been prattling on about this mythical universal benefit since 1989. Nearly 20 years later, and following fresh promises in the last election campaign, Labour's now backtracking - again.

"According to Mr Benson-Pope's comments today, New Zealanders can expect to go to the polls again before Labour gets its act together on its universal benefit brainchild."

Ms Collins says she welcomes Mr Benson-Pope's other comments today but suggests some of his initiatives are "blindingly obvious and what the public already expect of Work and Income".

She's referring to announcements including the setting stronger work expectations for clients in some circumstances and offering a Job Search Service for work-ready clients.

"Labour's run out of ideas. Today's over-hyped announcements are a case in point," says Ms Collins.

Timeline for Labour's Universal Benefit:

* Labour announced a plan to reform social welfare benefits and introduce a generic benefit, to be known as the Universal Benefit, in the 1989 budget. The new system was to come into force from 1 April 1991.

* A bill was introduced in September 1990, but because Labour lost the election it was not passed.

* Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey said in 2000 that he hoped to have the Universal Benefit finalised by 2002.

* In February 2005, Government ministers approved plans for a new single benefit.

* In July 2005, Hon Steve Maharey referred to the single core benefit being introduced in 2007. 'In 2007, we are going to introduce New Zealand's biggest and most positive social assistance reform since our system was designed almost 70 years ago,' - Steve Maharey.

* Today (October 2006), David Benson-Pope announces plans to delay 'final decisions' on the Universal Benefit until 2008.

ENDS

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