3 Nov 2009

Beneficiaries won't be forced into work - Bennett

9:28 pm on 3 November 2009

The Minister of Social Development denies the Government will force anyone back to work as part of its intention to reduce the number of invalid's beneficiaries.

Claimant numbers have risen from 51,000 to 85,000 over the past 10 years.

Finance Minister Bill English says he is concerned by the increase and wants to get people off long-term benefits.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the Government is looking at a range of measures to encourage a return to the workforce by those who are able to.

However she those on invalid's benefits will not be forced back to work and pledges the Government will support those who cannot work.

"I just want to be clear that this is not a blanket 85,000 people having to walk through the doors of Work and Income within the first month, or something like that," she says.

"We're going to just work more strategically with those people who are capable of working."

Ms Bennett has said a range of measures are being considered, including detailed monitoring of those on sickness and invalid's benefits.

Former Green Party MP Sue Bradford says the rise is part of a worldwide trend and the direct result of an ageing population.

Mental health concerns

The Mental Health Foundation says it wants to know invalids beneficiaries will not be forced into work they cannot handle.

It says employment can be a positive part of someone's recovery from a mental illness.

But chief executive Judi Clements says how that is introduced is important and people should not feel they are being punished because they are not ready.

Ms Clements says in the case of mental illness, any future policy needs to accommodate someone's fluctuating ability to work.