17 Sep 2014

Nats promise to reduce benefit numbers

4:52 pm on 17 September 2014

The National Party is promising to reduce the number of people on benefits by 75,000 by 2017 if it leads the next government.

National leader John Key and social development spokesperson Paula Bennett.

National leader John Key and social development spokesperson Paula Bennett. Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

The party says reducing the number of young people on the benefit by 40 percent is a tough target - but one that can be achieved.

Social development spokesperson Paula Bennett said today it would cut benefit numbers from 295,000 to 220,000.

Ms Bennett said National would offer incentives for beneficiaries who stayed in work for a set period of time, offer more childcare support and assess people more comprehensively when they first go to Work and Income.

If re-elected on Saturday, National said it would offer incentive payments for beneficiaries who stay in work, and offer more child care support.

At present, there are 53,000 people aged under 24 on the benefit and Ms Bennett said that can be reduced by 40 percent.

"It's bold - but I love a target and I think that New Zealanders are up for it. And I actually thing young people are up for it. With the right kind of support, what we are seeing in youth services is a substantial difference."

Ms Bennett says the Government needs to set an ambitious target to reduce the number of young beneficiaries and National would put more emphasis on helping young people get work.

Ms Bennett said benefit numbers had already been falling by the thousands and it was important to keep the momentum going.

Exact details on the incentive for beneficiaries had not been worked out, but a payment of about $1000 would be made after, for example one year, then again at 18 months.

Asked whether that would be fair to people who move off a benefit and stay in that job, Ms Bennett said that was a consideration, which was why it would not be rolled out to everybody on a benefit, but in the end it would save money.

"Its certainly better, its certainly better for the taxpayer that's paying for the benefit.

"We recognise there's a bit of unfairness, if you like, but there's many aspects of the welfare system that could be seen that way.

"We want to back people, we want to see them in jobs long term."

Ms Bennett said National also wants to work more closely with iwi to reduce the number of young Maori on a benefit, which may see iwi administer benefits of young people.

"Many of them have said to me that might mean that there's some real expectations for those young people.

National would also expand the $3000 incentive scheme for moving to Christchurch to other regions and help young people get their drivers licence.