Jet-setting beneficiaries penalised
More than 21,000 beneficiaries have had their income support cut for travelling overseas since last July, the Government says.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the suspended payments had saved the taxpayer $10.5m in suspended payments since the applicable welfare reforms were introduced last year.
"That's a staggering number of people," she said.
"These figures are the number of people who chose to travel knowing their benefit would be suspended.
''Every day we hear stories of how people cannot live on the benefit. Today you're hearing that literally thousands can not only live on it but can afford to travel overseas as well."
Bennett said more than 1750 people have had their benefit suspended for multiple overseas trips, including 191 people who travelled three times and 1555 who have travelled twice since July.
These figures don't include those on superannuation.
The largest group of suspensions applied to nearly 11,200 people on job seeker benefits, followed by more than 4800 solo parents.
A total of 4880 people had their benefits cut because they did not reconnect with Work and Income within eight weeks of their departure.
Bennett said the new rules still allowed for some overseas travel such as on compassionate grounds while people who did not have work obligations could travel for up to 28 days a year.
Under the new rules, beneficiaries must tell Work and Income if they intend to travel and can have their benefit stopped immediately if they fail to do so.
Beneficiaries should be ready and available for work not prioritising travel, Bennett said.