12 Aug 2014

Plan to extend pre-paid benefit cards slammed

7:43 am on 12 August 2014

A plan to extend control over how young people on benefits spend their money is being labelled degrading by some of those who work with beneficiaries.

In 2012, National introduced payment cards and money management advice for 16- and 17-year-olds receiving the Youth Payment, and for parents up to the age of 18.

Under the new policy, Work and Income would refer people under 20 with complex needs to a youth service provider and they would receive intensive support and guidance, budgeting support and a payment card.

On Monday, the government said it would extend that to 19-year-old sole parents and to many other beneficiaries aged 18 and 19.

Spokesperson for the Rotorua Peoples' Union, Paul Blair, said if 18-year-olds can vote, they should be allowed to manage their money.

He said the plans sends the message that a person on a social security benefit is a second-rate citizen who needs to have their rent and power paid directly by the state.

But the Taxpayers' Union lobby group said the Government shouldn't be apologetic about the plan.

Executive director Jordan Williams said the move would help ensure beneficiary money is spent on necessities, not luxuries.

Mr Williams said welfare should not be an obligation-free cheque, and there's scope for the system to be extended even further.