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National's Broken Promises

Media Release

National's Broken Promises
Monday, October 19, 2009

Information obtained under the Official Information Act shows that the National government has failed to implement the welfare policy promises it made during the 2008 election campaign.

Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell said that she had been provided with information from the Ministry of Social Development which confirms that none of the promises laid out below has been implemented. The first column shows the promises and reasons for them, as detailed in National's manifesto; the second column provides the information from the Ministry of Social Development confirming none of the promises has been actioned.

"National produced an 11-page benefits policy prior to the 2008 election and they have a mandate and responsibility to deliver. Probably the worst omission is a failure to introduce a part-time work test on the domestic purposes benefit. Australia introduced work-testing in 2006 and a report released by the Centre for Independent Studies last week shows that the number of Parenting Payment (Single) recipients has dropped by 21 percent. The report concludes the drop is due to a combination of movement off welfare and transfer to the unemployment benefit. By contrast, New Zealand's DPB numbers have risen by 6 percent in the past year."

"National also said it would 'address growth in sickness and invalid numbers' yet the total number has increased by a further 5 percent in this year alone."

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"To win votes on false promises is fraudulent. National promised an 'unrelenting focus on work' but, after almost a year in government, is not delivering for its voters . Even worse, it's not delivering for people on benefits who need more carrot and stick to become self reliant."

"The welfare bill is the government's biggest at $19.4 billion a year or 30 percent of core expenditure. This is where National needs to be focussing its attention and honouring its promises."

What National promisedWhat National delivered
Re-naming 'Personal Development and Employment Plans' because, "It is not the government's role to help people develop a plan for social activities."1Please note that the Ministry has received no advice to discontinue PDEPs and no decisions have been made to change the name of these plans.2
A requirement that the validity of a second medical certificate for a sickness benefit be reduced from 13 weeks to 4 because, "This will ensure more frequent assessments from the person's doctor."1If a person is unable to work and requires a Sickness Benefit for longer than four weeks they must return to their registered health professional and obtain a further medical certificate. A second or subsequent medical certificate can provide medical coverage for up to a maximum of 13 weeks.2
Introduction of part-time work obligations for sickness and invalid beneficiaries assessed as being able to work because, "[However] there is no obligation for these people to do anything more than plan for their eventual return to work and talk to their case manager regularly."1A recipient of a sickness Benefit or Invalid's Benefit has no work test obligations, however they may be required to plan towards their future return to work.2
Introduction of a more graduated system of sanctions for people who do not comply with work obligations because, "This step, or steps, will give Work and Income case managers more flexibility and additional tools to encourage beneficiaries to comply with their work obligations."1Legislation relating to work test sanctions was introduced in 1998 and was most recently amended in 2007.2
Raising the abatement-free earnings threshold from $80 a week to $100 because, "This will help to encourage work wherever possible."1A person in receipt of a benefit can earn $80 gross per week before their benefit is abated.2
Introduction of part-time work-testing on DPB recipients when their youngest child turns six because ,"There is clear evidence that work obligations are effective."1Note clients receiving the Domestic Purposes Benefit cannot be pressured into taking up or accepting employment.3

1/ Direct quote from the National benefits policy backgrounder
2/ Direct quote from an OIA response
3/ Extracted from Work and Income's Manuals and Procedures (their emphasis)


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