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National to tackle welfare fraud

Rt Hon John Key
Prime Minister &
National Party Leader

15 November 2011 Media Statement

National to tackle welfare fraud

National will tighten up on those New Zealanders who abuse the social welfare system at the expense of hard-working taxpayers, Prime Minister and National Party Leader John Key announced today.

“Our welfare system is one of the best in the world and, under National, that safety net will always be there to help New Zealanders in need. For most people, this is a temporary support while they get back on their feet,” says Mr Key.

“National has already committed to helping the majority of people within the welfare system to become work-ready. However, there is a small number who see welfare as a free ride on the taxpayer, and there are those who are facing a future of life-time welfare dependency.

“National will be more hands-on with the welfare system. We’ll put more resources and support into helping those at risk of long-term dependency find work and improve their lives.”

Under National, there will also be a stronger, more proactive stance against those who abuse and defraud the welfare system. Jobseekers whose recreational drug use affects their ability to apply for or secure a job will also be sanctioned, and through the investment approach those with drug addictions will be supported to overcome their illness. In addition, benefit recipients on the run from the Police will have their benefit cancelled.

“Welfare fraud of any kind is unacceptable,” says Mr Key. “National will make it easier to match information in benefit applications with information held by other agencies to catch fraudsters sooner, and we will make it possible for authorities to actively seek to recover money by selling such fraudsters’ assets.

“This year alone, Work and Income’s data matching found around six to 12 per cent of people were receiving benefit payments they weren’t entitled to. This shows we have to do better by the taxpayer to safeguard their money and protect the integrity of the welfare system.”

“We will beef up authorities’ investigative power, funding a new team of fraud specialists to hone in on reducing abuse across the welfare system.

“National will also review the Social Security Act, with a focus on making it easier for authorities to prosecute people who abuse the welfare system. In particular, we will review the rules around relationship fraud, and make clearer the rules around when benefit recipients need to let Work and Income know about any relationships they are in.”

Jobseekers who don’t apply for a job because they are asked to take a drug test, or who fail a pre-employment drug test, face having their benefit cancelled.

“Too many young people, especially, are not applying for a job if a potential employer asks them to take a drug test. If left alone, these young people are at risk of long-term welfare dependency,” says Mr Key. “We will ensure they get the right support to deal with their drug use or addiction.”

Those beneficiaries evading a Police warrant will also have their benefit cancelled.

“Taxpayers should not be paying criminals to evade the law,” says Mr Key. “We believe in a welfare system which is fair for to those who use it, but is also fair on taxpayers who fund it.

“The past three years have been tough on New Zealanders, with the global financial crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes forcing a number of people to turn to the State for help. People with these genuine needs must be helped – but those who are taking advantage of the taxpayer-funded welfare system must learn it’s not a free ride or a lifestyle choice.”

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