10 Oct 2012

Use of benefit sanctions rises

10:17 pm on 10 October 2012

The use of sanctions against beneficiaries failing to meet work test obligations has more than doubled in the past five years.

A range of sanctions are used when people on a benefit do not meet work test obligations, for example, failing to attend a job interview.

In the year to the end of June, the total number of sanctions applied was 57,168 - more than twice the 23,775 of five years ago.

The Labour Party was given the figures in answer to a parliamentary question.

Labour's social development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says it's a dramatic increase in the use of sanctions and questions what it's achieving.

The Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the main increase has been in the number of warnings given to beneficiaries.

She says the number of benefits suspended or cancelled has actually gone down, because people are now more aware of what is expected of them.

The Future Focus changes introduced in 2010 brought in greater work test obligations for beneficiaries.

That year, the number of benefits suspended or cancelled for repeated failures to meet the work test rules, peaked at 44,000. The figure went down to 17,500 in the last financial year.