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Audit report into Sickness and Invalid’s Benefits

Hon Paula Bennett
Minister for Social Development and Employment
Minister for Youth Affairs

Audit report into Sickness and Invalid’s Benefit management

The previous Government’s efforts to move people off Sickness and Invalid’s Benefits failed according to a new report, says the Social Development and Employment Minister.

Paula Bennett has welcomed the report from the Office of the Auditor General and its 18 recommendations, which has been tabled in Parliament.

The audit of Sickness Benefit and Invalid’s Benefit case management was undertaken midway through last year.

It looked at changes introduced by Labour in 2007 under a failed programme called ‘Working New Zealand: Work-Focused Support’.

“These changes were supposed to actively help and encourage sickness and invalid’s beneficiaries back into work. Yet the numbers of those needing those benefits continued to grow. Labour failed these people – and that was in the economic boom-time. They didn’t care about getting them back to a productive working life.”

The Auditor General’s recommendations focus on improving how eligibility for both benefits is determined, more comprehensive case management and extending the monitoring and evaluation of the programme.

“This report confirms the changes we promised before the election are heading in the right direction.

“We want to ensure people are properly assessed, so we can give them the help they need to improve their lives by getting back into work.”

Paula Bennett says Work and Income staff will only be able to do that if they’re given the right tools for the job.

“To that end, we’ll increase the frequencies of their assessments in the first 12 months, and send them to get a “designated doctor” for a second opinion on their work prospects.

“We always said if a doctor assessed people on those benefits as work-ready, we’d take steps to support them into work.

“Unlike Labour, we have higher expectations for those on benefits than a life on welfare. We know, given the assistance they need, these people can affect real change in their lives,” Paula Bennett says.

As at 30 September there were 85,015 people on an Invalid’s Benefit and 56,384 receiving the Sickness Benefit.

ENDS

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