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National policy – Off the benefit and into work

15 August 2008

National policy – Off the benefit and into work.

When National leader John Key released the party’s welfare policy in my electorate, he could speak from personal experience.

“My family was poor and we knew it,” he told about 260 people at a luncheon at the Papakura RSA on Monday 11 August.

John’s father died when he was seven years old. His mother relied on the widows’ benefit to hold the family – John and his two older sisters – together.

The benefit kept the family focused on a time when things would improve.

“By having our most basic needs covered as a family, we were able to hold on to that most precious human emotion – hope. “Over time, my mother moved off the benefit and into work.”

That’s the National Party’s vision for many of the 260,000 working-aged people currently receiving a benefit in New Zealand. Most are on domestic purposes, sickness, invalids or unemployment benefits.

Under a National Government, people who have been on the unemployment benefit more than a year must re-apply for their benefit and do a comprehensive work assessment. They will be required to do practical training, a basic skills course or attend drug and alcohol rehabilitation to prepare for work.

They must actively seek employment, attend job interviews they are referred to and accept any offer of suitable employment.

“If they do not comply with these obligations, they will have their benefit reduced in the first instance, then suspended, and then cancelled,” Mr Key said.

Part-time work obligations will also apply to DPB recipients once their youngest dependent child is aged six or over and people on sickness and invalids benefits who have been assessed as being able to work part time.

National will require sickness beneficiaries to have more frequent assessments during their first few months on a benefit. After they have been receiving a sickness benefit continuously for 12 months, Work and Income will send them to a “designated doctor” for a second opinion on their work prospects.

A Ministry of Social Development study shows work obligations resulted in an increase in the number of sole parents moving off the benefit and those who did so were eventually better off financially.
“Long-term welfare dependency locks people into a life of limited income and limited choices.

“New Zealanders don’t mind giving people in less fortunate situations a helping hand, but they equally don’t like to feel that their helping hand is being taken advantage of.

“It’s not fair on the people who pay the nation’s welfare bill to have people receiving benefits and not making every reasonable attempt to pick themselves up, find a job, and stand on their own two feet.

“National is committed to a benefit system that is a genuine safety net in times of need and a temporary support to people as they return to independence,” Mr Key says.
Budget advice will be provided for those frequently applying for benefit advances and beneficiaries and their partners will be able to earn more before their benefit is reduced - $100 rather than $80. Benefits will also rise each year in line with inflation.

As the National Party’s Welfare spokeswoman, I am very proud that our policy is balanced, compassionate, fair and workable.

Papakura RSA is holding its inaugural ball at 40 Elliot St in Papakura on August 23 and it’s not just for members. It’s open to anyone. In fact Acting General Manager Lianne Hall says it’s a great opportunity for people who are not members to come and see what the RSA is all about. Tickets include a four course dinner and entertainment. Formal dress is expected. For information and ticket bookings, contact the RSA on phone 298 5091.

Judith Collins
MP for Clevedon


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