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Benefit scheme under-delivers - as expected

Judith Collins MP National Party Welfare Spokeswoman

4 May 2008

Benefit scheme under-delivers - as expected

National Party Welfare spokeswoman Judith Collins says the latest sickness and invalid benefit numbers suggest Treasury's concerns about Labour's Working New Zealand reforms were well-founded.

"This $100 million programme has demonstrably failed to reduce the overall number of people dependent on a sickness or invalid benefit."

Treasury papers released last year said that although most of the Working New Zealand expenditure would go on services for sickness and invalid beneficiaries, the Ministry of Social Development is not forecasting any overall reduction in those benefits as a result of the extra spending.

"So it is no surprise that figures to the end of March 2008 reveal that 129,474 people are on either the sickness or the invalid benefit, up from 128,500 in June last year."

In June 2007, David Benson-Pope said all clients, including sickness and invalid beneficiaries, would receive enhanced work support services. In September 2007, Steve Maharey said the Working New Zealand programme meant there would be more support for sick and disabled people to work.

"But the reality is that the decrease in the number of people on the Sickness Benefit has been more than offset by an increase in the number on the Invalid Benefit, which is up 4,000 since June 2007 to an all-time high of 83,350.

"Treasury repeatedly warned that the $100 million Working New Zealand reforms did not offer value for money, and that a significant proportion of the costs would go on benefit administration. This arrogant Labour Government dismissed those concerns and went ahead anyway.

"Labour is spending $100 million, but appears to be getting very little bang for the taxpayers' buck.

"The latest figures confirm that Labour has failed to deliver for sickness and invalid beneficiaries. The Minister needs to explain what has been achieved for all that expenditure, other than more bureaucracy and benefit shuffling."

ENDS


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