Grant flies beneficiaries across Tasman

MICHELLE COOKE
Last updated 16:06 05/12/2012

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At least 20 beneficiaries have received taxpayer money to travel to Australia after finding work there, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said in Parliament today.

Labour party social development spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern first raised the issue in Parliament yesterday when she asked the minister how many times the Transition to Work grant had been used by Work and Income to purchase tickets to Australia for job seekers who found work there.

Bennett confirmed in Parliament today that the grant had been used to purchase plane tickets to Australia six times in the last year and 16 times in 2007, the first year it came into effect, and a year when Labour was in government.

She did not have the information yesterday and it was unclear how many times it had been used in the years between 2007 and 2012.

The grant, which covers costs of up to $1500 per year for job seekers, has been accessed 500,000 times in the last five years.

It took a manual search to establish how many times it had been used to fund trips to Australia for beneficiaries who had found work there, Bennett said.

"There's not a box they can tick in the system that then can be looked at from Head Office, but what they can do though is search the system because people can still put the information in."

The grant is used for job search costs, interview costs, clothing needed for work, relocation costs and living expenses until people receive their first pay.

Bennett said she would be disappointed if it was common practice for the grant to be used to fly people to Australia for work.

Case managers distributed the fund and it had been made clear to them that the grant should not be used to pay for any airfares overseas, Bennett said. 

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