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Collins and the New Maths

20 March 2008 Media Statement

Collins and the New Maths

Judith Collins has once again demonstrated she is a student of the New Maths, says Social Development Minister Ruth Dyson.

“The percentage of Ministry of Social Development clients who owe debts is 19.8% of their total current clients - this is a very small increase since 2000, when 18.8% of Ministry clients had debts with the Ministry.

“The percentage is not 70% as Judith Collins says. What she has done with her creative maths to get this figure is to take the total number of MSD clients who owe debt – which include Superannuitants and those with non-benefit debt - and divided it by the working age population on a benefit, which does not include NZ Super recipients. She is comparing apples with pears by using the wrong denominator,” said Ruth Dyson.

Total debt owed to MSD includes fraud, overpayments and recoverable assistance, where clients and beneficiaries make arrangements to repay money loaned to them by MSD.

“Recoverable assistance means interest-free loans, which are used for things such as repairs to household appliances or vehicles, petrol money for travel to funerals, or to pay fines which would otherwise incur penalties that would leave someone even further in debt,”

“Is it the policy of the National party that these families should go to loan sharks instead?” asked Ruth Dyson.

The total amount of benefit overpayments each year, has decreased from almost $190 million in 2001/02 to $150 million in 2006/07.

“This reflects our focus on getting people off benefits and into work, and our emphasis on debt prevention and early detection,” said Ruth Dyson.

In the last year the Ministry of Social Development has:
• run more than 346 data matching programmes comparing more than 12 million records
• visited more than 15,000 clients to check their entitlement
• completed 39,000 individual investigations and reviews
• prosecuted 905 cases with a 95% success rate

“We also have the Social Assistance (Debt Prevention and Minimisation) Bill currently before the House, that will enable our government to continue this good work,” said Ruth Dyson.

ENDS

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