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Benefits cut for 21,000 overseas travellers

Benefits cut for 21,000 overseas travellers

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says more than 21,000 people have had their benefit cut for travelling overseas since July last year.

“We tightened the overseas travel rules as part of welfare reform and have saved New Zealand more than $10.5 million in suspended payments for beneficiaries who still chose to travel.

“That’s a staggering number of people. More than 1,750 people have had their benefit suspended for multiple overseas trips. This includes 191 people who travelled three times and 1,555 who have travelled twice since last July.

“These figures don’t include those on Superannuation.

“The largest group of suspensions applied to nearly 11,200 people on job seeker benefits, followed by more than 4,800 sole parents.

“The new rules recognise that beneficiaries should be ready and available for work not prioritising travel.

“Since the changes 4,880 peoples’ benefits were cancelled because they failed to reconnect with Work and Income eight weeks after their departure from New Zealand.

“The rules, while tighter, still allow for overseas travel on compassionate or health grounds in certain cases for job seekers. People without work obligations may in most cases travel overseas for up to 28 days.

“These figures are the number of people who chose to travel knowing their benefit would be suspended. Every day we hear stories of how people cannot live on the benefit. Today you’re hearing that literally thousands can not only live on it but can afford to travel overseas as well,” said Mrs Bennett.

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