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Nats, not beneficiaries, need budget advice

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Social Services Minister Roger Sowry should witness the reality of life on a benefit by joining some of the budget advice sessions he is about to force on beneficiaries, says Labour's social welfare spokesperson Steve Maharey.

"I challenge Roger Sowry to sit through a few of the compulsory budget advice sessions beneficiaries will be put through from tomorrow," Mr Maharey says. "This is his chance to learn what every budget advisor knows, that the problem for most beneficiaries is income, not budgeting."

Work and Income NZ begins enforcing the compulsory budget advice policy from tomorrow, October 1, the first anniversary of the department's formation.

Beneficiaries seeking a fourth special needs grant for food within 12 months will be directed to a budget advisor, who will recommend whether they should get it. Anyone failing to go to the budget service will have the grant refused automatically.

"There were 13,000 fourth requests for food grants in the year to June and almost 10,000 more are expected between now and next June. That in itself is an indictment of this government's social neglect. What these people need is a more flexible income support system, not the Government telling them they don't know how to budget.

"Budget advisers do great work, but they will tell anyone who asks that most people they see have an income problem not a budgeting problem. Most low income families are much better at managing their finances than people on higher incomes, because they have to be.

"The compulsory budget advice policy is typical of a Government with no real understanding of life on a benefit. As usual, National blames beneficiaries for the difficulties they face.

"Perhaps the best thing this policy could do is confront this Government with more evidence that beneficiaries can't live on their present incomes. This is a chance for Roger Sowry to learn something. I know there will be no shortage of beneficiaries happy to help him."

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