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Drug and alcohol beneficiaries - A-G investigation

Judith Collins MP
National Party Welfare Spokeswoman

7 July 2008

Drug and alcohol beneficiaries - A-G to investigate

Answers are needed on what Labour is doing to help the number of beneficiaries claiming sickness and invalid benefits for drug or alcohol problems, says National's Welfare spokeswoman, Judith Collins. The number of people on a benefit for drug problems has doubled from 1,297 in 2004 to 2,540. There are also 2,739 sickness and invalid beneficiaries who cite alcoholism as the reason they cannot work.

"Benefits paid to beneficiaries for drug and alcohol problems are estimated to cost New Zealand $1 million per week. "Ruth Dyson's claim this morning that the PATHS (Providing Access to Health Solutions) scheme ensured alcohol and drug-affected beneficiaries received the treatment they needed would be laughable if it wasn't so serious.

"PATHS has been an utter failure. When the scheme was launched in 2004, Steve Maharey said 15,000 people were eligible in Counties Manukau alone.

When he launched the Wellington scheme he said that 4,700 Wellington sickness and invalid beneficiaries would be working with Work and Income to improve their health. "The reality is that, since the $5 million scheme began, fewer than 1,500 people have participated and only a couple of hundred of them have returned to work as a result. "Labour claims PATHS' low participation and success rate is because the scheme is intended for very complex cases. However, in 2004, it said PATHS would provide anything from gym memberships to physiotherapy.

"Last year I called for the Audit Office to investigate these types of schemes where no targets are set and no evaluations released, and I am pleased PATHS will now be coming under the microscope.

"Simply leaving people with treatable and chronic illnesses on benefits without helping them back to wellness is destructive and cruel."

ENDS


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