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Social Security Act set for rewrite

Hon Paula Bennett

Minister for Social Development

28 May 2014 Media Statement

Social Security Act set for rewrite

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says a rewrite of New Zealand’s Social Security legislation is necessary and long overdue.

The Government plans to introduce a Bill by the end of 2015 to rewrite the 1964 Social Security Act so it is easier to understand and better reflects modern welfare assistance in New Zealand.

“The Act needs updating. It was originally passed in 1964 and since then there have been multiple amendments which means it’s dis-jointed and lacks coherency,” says Mrs Bennett.

“The Government has overhauled the benefit system through the Welfare Reform changes and it is timely to rewrite the legislation using plain simple language so that existing policies are more understandable.

“Since 1964 there have been 139 amending Acts including 71 Social Security Amendment Acts. There are 491 sections within the Act, of which 186 have been repealed.

“People can be assured that the focus is on re-enacting existing policies in a more accessible and understandable way – not to undertake further reforms. This is not about changing benefit rates, existing financial assistance or other supports available.

“The re-write will ensure the legislation is in step with current and future expectations for how the Ministry of Social Development delivers its services. The Act was written at a time when letters were the norm. Times and communications have changed and the Act needs to change with them.

“I’m aiming to introduce new legislation for Parliamentary consideration by late 2015 and people will have the opportunity to provide feedback through the Select Committee stages,” said Mrs Bennett.

Media Contact: Bronwyn Saunders 021 684861 or Pip Rawson 021 473152

Editor’s Notes: The Cabinet Paper and decision agreeing to the rewrite of the Social Security Act can be found at :www.msd.govt.nz

Examples of areas being considered as part of the rewrite the Social Security Act:

Income Assessment

Work and Income case managers carry out close to one million transactions relating to income in a year – nearly half of those relate to income received in the previous pay period. Changing the rules around how income is recorded and assessed could save huge time and money for beneficiaries and staff.

Calculating Stand-Down

Complicated income calculations are required to assess whether a beneficiary will have a one or two week stand down period before getting a benefit payment. Onerous processes are required for every application when only three per cent of beneficiaries will actually have a two week stand down applied to them.

Use of Letters

More than six million letters were sent out in the past year to beneficiaries and superannunitants at a cost of the more than $3 million. The Electronic Transactions Act 2002 already enables information that is required by statute to be provided in writing to be delivered electronically. Ensuring the Act is permissive across the full range of communication methods will allow the use of more modern communication channels including text and email.

Convoluted writing

The Act would benefit from plain English writing. The Act currently contains the following in relation to determining a person’s age:

‘..for the purposes of this Act, a person shall be deemed not to have attained a given age until the commencement of the relevant anniversary of the day of his birth.’

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