15 Aug 2011

National policy a Nanny State, says Goff

9:02 pm on 15 August 2011

Labour leader Phil Goff has has accused the Prime Minister of taking a Nanny State approach to young beneficiaries in the Government's youth welfare policy announced at the National party's annual conference on Sunday.

Under the police, social agencies would be given control of the benefits paid to 16- and 17-year-olds, and to 18-year-olds with children.

Mr Goff says John Key's suggestion that the changes would mean young beneficiaries would not be able to spend their benefits on junk food like Kentucky Fried Chicken is "tinkering at the edges".

"I'm not quite sure why we're concerned about whether or not a 16-year-old is eating Kentucky Fried Chicken when what they need is a job and they need the skill training to get them a job "

He says Labour was accused of running a Nanny State but this is exactly what the Prime Minister is doing with his "we won't let them eat Kentucky Fried Chicken" but won't give young people the skills to get on in life.

Policy "missing the point"

Other Opposition criticism has accused National of missing the point with its youth welfare policy, saying it will do little to help young people into work.

Earlier, Labour youth affairs spokesperson Jacinda Ardern said the plan does nothing to address the high unemployment rate among young people.

She says young people need jobs and educational opportunities, not food stamps.

Ms Ardern says she would like to see the evidence the policy is based in.

She says offering cash incentives to case workers who are looking after young beneficiaries is also not the answer.

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei says National should focus on creating new jobs rather than assuming young people do not know how to manage their money.

Ms Turei says the real issue is that there are no jobs for these young people to go to.

The Maori Party says National should be investing in education and training for young people instead of giving extra money to the social agencies charged with finding them work.

ACT says that while the policy is a step in the right direction, National should have included a youth minimum wage.

PM defends the policy

The Prime Minister continues to defend the policy, saying the current system of welfare payments to teenagers amounts to abandonment, and has to change.

And he says there is a system of mutual obligation with the state having a responsibility to look after people, but .

"The state has a responsibility to look after people and make sure they can look after themselves, but the welfare recipient also had a responsibility to make sure that money is used appropriately.

"If you are a young person bringing up a child, your responsibility is to make sure that child is fed, is housed and is warm."