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Sickness and Invalids numbers reach record high

Judith Collins MP
National Party Welfare Spokeswoman

27 October 2006

Sickness and Invalids numbers reach record high

National Party Welfare spokeswoman Judith Collins says the number of people collecting the sickness or invalids benefits has soared to record highs.

"Some 125,726 New Zealanders are now collecting either the sickness or invalids benefits. That's the highest ever."

Ms Collins says in 1996 there were 74,017 people on these benefits.

"In 1999, when Labour came to office, there were 85,065 people on either the sickness or invalids benefits. So there's been an increase of nearly 50%, or 40,000."

Ms Collins says Labour's had an abysmal record in relation to the sickness and invalids benefits. Just this morning the Minister confessed to not knowing the numbers.

"Doesn't he care? The reality is they've done very little to help people on these benefits. The flagship PATHS programme has been an expensive flop, while other taxpayer-funded pilot programmes are coming and going without any formal evaluation.

"With the numbers soaring to record highs, it's no coincidence that just yesterday taxpayers were told that Labour would start asking what these beneficiaries can do rather than what they can't.

"I'm amazed and appalled that it's taken Labour seven long years to reach that commonsense conclusion. Talk about a bunch of slow learners."

Meanwhile, Ms Collins describes the decision to abandon the universal benefit as the "biggest back-down on welfare for 20 years".

"This universal benefit plan was trotted out in the heat of the election campaign in an effort to convince New Zealanders that Labour had not given up on welfare dependency.

"Another promise is broken. You just can't trust Labour to be honest when it comes to welfare," says Ms Collins.

ENDS

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