2 Nov 2011

Welfare policy 'needs jobs to achieve aims'

12:03 pm on 2 November 2011

A member of the Welfare Working Group says the National Party is trying to break a dependency cycle with its new welfare policy but won't achieve its aims unless there are jobs for those beneficiaries to go to.

National wants to have just three types of benefits and introduce work testing for single parents when their children go to school.

It says the changes would reduce the number of people on benefits by 46,000 and save $1 billion during the next four years.

The Welfare Working Group was commissioned by the Government to review the welfare system and issued a report in February. Chairperson Paula Rebstock says National's policy includes a significant number of the group's recommendations.

Ms Rebstock says it's encouraging the policy also commits $130 million a year towards reforms in areas including child care and training.

She says the National Party seems prepared to invest and look at the range of initiatives needed.

"There is no simple answer and there is no silver bullet", she says.

Sharon Wilson Davis, a member of the group, told Nine to Noon that beneficiaries need to expect to work or develop skills, but the only way National's policy will make a difference is if jobs come online.

However, an organisation set up as an alternative to the Welfare Working Group is concerned about what lies ahead for people on benefits if National is re-elected.

Welfare Justice chair Mike O'Brien also says the policy is dependent on jobs being available, and he says it does not outline how people's attempts to get back into work will be overseen.

He says it leaves him with real anxiety about the detail of what might be put in place in the new Parliament.

Donna Wynd from the Child Poverty Action Group says the policy is an attempt to show National voters the party has got tough on welfare.

Opposition parties critical

Opposition parties are critical of National's proposed welfare reforms, with the Mana Party saying National has lifted its war on the poor to another level.

Mana Party candidate Sue Bradford says it's simply intimidation of those dependent on the welfare system for survival.

The Maori Party says it does not support welfare dependency, but says it will keep a vigilant eye on any reforms.

Labour and the Greens say there is no explanation of where the jobs would come from to allow people to move off benefits.

However National's social development spokesperson, Paula Bennett, has defended her party's record on reducing unemployment, citing the recession.

Ms Bennett told Morning Report it's time to shift some of the $100 million given in employment assistance to sole parents on benefits so they are supported and trained for work.

Labour's social development spokesperson, Annette King, told the programme that National's policies haven't worked and the dole needs to be turned into a subsidy for employers to train people for jobs.