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Welfare card deal gets even more confusing

Annette KING
Deputy Leader
Description: Description: Labour Logo - red
18 August 2011

Welfare card deal gets even more confusing

The Minister of Social Welfare has admitted the much-hyped payment card National plans to introduce to stop young, unemployed people buying alcohol and tobacco won’t stop them doing that because they’ll be able to use the pocket money the Government gives them to do it, Labour’s Deputy Leader Annette King says.

“Paula Bennett’s confession came during questioning in the House today. Not only did she acknowledge that the young people this policy is targeting will get a cash allowance – a bit of “pocket money” - along with their special payment card, but that they will be able to spend that money on whatever they like, including cigarettes and alcohol.

“What then is the point of this card? On Sunday when the policy was launched the Prime Minister said the cards would be loaded with money to buy certain types of goods such as ‘basic living costs like food and groceries…and cannot be used to buy things like alcohol or cigarettes.’

“Yesterday the Minister was also adamant it was being rolled out to ensure benefits are spent on essentials.

“Five months ago, in response to a suggestion from a member of the public, she rejected extending the payment card scheme as being intrusive and costly, yet just last night she was telling an audience at a meeting some beneficiaries were already using a card and that the Government was looking at how it could be used more widely,” Annette King said.

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“The Minister’s new mantra – that the Government is looking to wrap its support around New Zealand’s most vulnerable – is starting to look more like a web of confusion.

“Playing politics is a luxury the Minister can ill afford. Young people make up 45 % of the total number of unemployed. They do not need the Government using them as an experiment -they need training, they need jobs, and they need to be given the chance to show some self-reliance and responsibility,” Annette King said.

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