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New welfare fraud measures come into force

New welfare fraud measures come into force

Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows has welcomed the start of new powers to hold both parties to relationship welfare fraud to account.

From today the amendments in the Social Security (Fraud Measures and Debt Recovery) Amendment Act 2014 come into force, creating a new offence for partners who are involved in relationship welfare fraud.

“’Relationship’ welfare fraud is different from most fraud in that it can by definition only be committed by two people, but we’ve only ever had the ability to hold one, the beneficiary, to account,” says Mr Borrows.

“From today that changes.”

“We know that the vast majority of Sole Parent Support beneficiaries successfully manage the change in their eligibility, but a small minority choose to take money they are no longer entitled to. Now we will be able to hold both parties to this offending to account.”

In the 2012/13 financial year there were 361 successful prosecutions that involved relationship fraud, with overpayments of $18.2 million. Over that same period 34,900 people came off the old Domestic Purposes benefit, many due to changing relationship status meaning they were no longer eligible for the DPB.

The Social Security (Fraud Measures and Debt Recovery) Amendment Act is part of a package of reforms this Government has implemented to combat welfare fraud.

“The Social Security (Fraud Measures and Debt Recovery) Amendment Act is a key step in combatting welfare fraud and ensuring those who would seek to defraud the system are held accountable.” says Mr Borrows.

The Acts also ensures that the Ministry of Social Development continues to recover all kinds of debt effectively – whether fraud debt, overpayments, advances or recoverable assistance.

“The Social Security (Fraud Measures and Debt Recovery) Amendment Act also makes it clear that the Ministry of Social Development should recover all welfare debt as the New Zealand taxpayer expects,” says Mr Borrows, “However this will continue to be done in a way that ensures the Ministry can exercise sensible discretion in managing recovery in individual cases so undue hardship is not placed on those repaying debt, or on their dependents.”

ends

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