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No cause for celebration in benefit figures

9 August 2011

No cause for celebration in benefit figures

The Government should only celebrate benefit statistics if they clearly show people moving off benefits and into work or training, the Green Party said today.

“If people are falling through the cracks because they are too scared to reapply under the new annual test, that is no cause for celebration,” Green Party Work and Income Spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said.

The Government reported yesterday that 7400 people had moved off the unemployment benefit since the introduction of changes requiring beneficiaries to reapply every 12 months.

Of these, around 2000 had found work, and 1400 had either left the country, were studying, or had not met work test requirements.

“That leaves around 4000 who did not reapply for the benefit, but who did not find work or training either,” Ms Delahunty said.

“We need to ask what is happening to these people? It is no use celebrating that they are off the benefit if they are slipping through the cracks and ending up homeless, sick, or in the criminal justice system.

“That will cost the country far more in the long run.”

Ms Delahunty said Prime Minister John Key’s comment that it could be fraudulent to apply for a benefit if you were not eligible was particularly unhelpful.

“It is no more fraudulent to apply for a benefit and find you are ineligible than it is to apply for a bank loan or a job and get turned down,” Ms Delahunty said.

“Citizens are perfectly entitled to apply for a benefit if they believe they may be eligible. It is up to Work and Income staff to determine whether they are, through the application process.

“It is only fraudulent to knowingly provide inaccurate information in the application

“Mr Key’s comments are misleading and unhelpful and could deter those in need from applying for support that they are entitled to.”

Ms Delahunty said beneficiary advocates were reporting huge stress from people who wanted to reapply for the unemployment benefit but were offered little assistance from Work and Income to complete the application.

“Under the new rules, people reapplying for the unemployment benefit must satisfy Work and Income that they have been actively searching for work, but many applicants with literacy and language barriers find it hard to complete the detailed paperwork without assistance.

“Many beneficiaries face severe barriers when looking for work. Feeling stressed and anxious about reapplying for the benefit is now another barrier.

“There is nothing to celebrate in the news that thousands may be slipping through the cracks. We need real job creation and training opportunities so that people can move off benefits safely and sustainably,” Ms Delahunty said.

ENDS

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