19 Jul 2012

First part of welfare reforms passes into law

8:56 pm on 19 July 2012

The first part of the Government's controversial welfare reforms has passed its third and final reading in Parliament.

The reforms include tougher work tests for some benefits, and set up a new youth benefit for 16 and 17 year olds.

The Social Security (Youth Support and Work Focus) Amendment Bill passed its third and final reading 64 votes to 57 on Thursday afternoon.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett told Parliament welfare dependency is no longer an option.

She says the welfare system is changing from a passive approach of fostering benefit dependency to one that is work-focused. "For too long, the system has let thousands of New Zealanders languish on benefits with no hope, no support and no encouragement to live and lead a better life."

But Labour MP Su'a William Sio told Parliament the legislation is flawed, as welfare is not a lifestyle choice for people.

The youth benefit changes come into effect next month, while the changes affecting single parents, widows and women alone will be implemented in October.