1 Nov 2011

National pledges major welfare shake-up

6:42 pm on 1 November 2011

The National Party is proposing to replace the existing range of benefits with three new ones and require more people to be available for work under its new welfare policy.

The policy was outlined by the party's leader John Key in Hamilton on Tuesday.

Under the plans, people on the present unemployment benefit and sickness benefit would go onto a new Jobseeker Support benefit and would be expected to be available for either full-time or part-time work as their capacity allows.

The Jobseeker Support would also cover single parents whose youngest child is 14 or over, and these parents will be required to be available for full-time work.

Other sole parents would go onto a Sole Parent Support, which would replace domestic purposes benefit, and would have to be available for part-time work when their youngest child is five.

The third new benefit, the Supported Living Payment, would be for those who are permanently and severely disabled or terminally ill and people caring for someone who requires the equivalent of hospital-level care.

They would not be expected to make themselves available for work.

Mr Key said the party's plan was to introduce a much more active benefit system and that National would expect a lot more people on a benefit to make themselves available for work.

He acknowledged that people will need jobs to go to and says he's confident that the job market will pick up.

Not a penalty - Bennett

Under the welfare policy, parents who have another child while on a benefit would have to to be available for work once the baby turns one.

National's social development spokesperson Paula Bennett told Checkpoint this was not penalising these families.

"Most of them are in intergenerational welfare dependency. We know that their children are more likely to have negative health aspects and education is likely to be poorer ... all evidence suggests that (for) those that are in work it's a better outcome for their children."

She said 6,000 parents of younger children and 11,000 sole parents of older children would come under the new work test requirements.

National says its changes are expected to result in up to 46,000 people off welfare and another 11,000 working part-time within four years and would cost about $130 million over the same period.

Welfare changes 'won't create jobs'

Labour Party leader Phil Goff says 60,000 more people are on benefits than when National came into office, and the best form of welfare payment is to get people into work and give them the skills to get those jobs.

Mr Goff says fiddling with the welfare system and penalising parents won't create jobs.

He says Labour would pay the dole to employers to take on apprentices, and increase industry training opportunities.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says the policy is highly punitive, grossly unfair and financially irresponsible.

She says a better solution to reducing beneift numbers would be to pour money into job creation.

Beneficiary Advocacy Federation spokesperson Kay Brereton says the welfare reforms are punitive, and represent an enormous change.

Ms Brereton says the overhaul would make life a lot harder for beneficiaries to the detriment of their parenting, and there is nothing in the policy which would say where the extra jobs required are coming from.