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Benefits: people with disabilities could suffer

Single benefit system - people with disabilities could suffer

The Labour Government's single benefit system proposal is a good idea, but the Alliance is concerned about the impact it will have on people with disabilities.

Alliance Disability Issues spokesperson Chris Ford says Steve Maharey's proposal has been long vaunted as a good idea to clean up the anomalies in the benefit system, of which there are many.

“However, there are obvious downsides to a unitary system, in that the needs of different beneficiary groups could be overlooked, even with the proposed clip-on system," he says. One of the most overlooked groups could be people with disabilities, who face higher living costs. According to Mr Ford, who has cerebral palsy, many people with disabilities have to pay higher costs, such as additional heating or wear and tear on clothing, while either not in paid employment or only working part-time.

"The unitary system will rely on one base benefit rate and we don't know what the eventual rate will be. Our fear is that it will be set too low, given that the Government is looking at getting more people into work and given their reliance on New Right theory that market forces should drive labour market supply."

Mr Ford says that while the Alliance applauds efforts to help people with disabilities find meaningful employment in the open workforce, this should not be at the expense of "pushing some people into work before they are ready”.

He says many people with disabilities are still encountering barriers to employment, even with unemployment falling.

"So the Alliance's challenge to Steve Maharey and Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson is this - where are they going to find the employers who will offer jobs to people with disabilities? We think they should remember the National-New Zealand First coalition's disastrous efforts to force workfare policies onto sickness and invalids beneficiaries back in the 1990s."

An Alliance Government would provide benefits at the level of a living wage to those people with disabilities who cannot work and would provide an adequate income to those who can work through fairer abatement rates. The Party would also abolish means-testing or work-testing of benefits.

"Overall we would like to see as many people as possible transition off invalids and sickness benefits. However, this can only be done in an economy where there is genuine full employment with fair conditions and rates of pay," Mr Ford says.


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