Welfare cheats in the gun in city trial
A new scheme adopted nationally to detect and prevent welfare fraud was trialled in Palmerston North, with promising results.
The "low trust client" initiative announced by Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows yesterday is part of the Government's push to make it harder for repeat welfare fraudsters to get away with it.
About 1500 "low trust clients" will now be dealt with face to face and with a single case manager.
But there are fears it may increase the number of people seeking support through agencies such as the Salvation Army if access to welfare is cut.
"We know the overwhelming majority of beneficiaries are honest and follow the rules," Mr Borrows said. "Yet those very few who choose to defraud the system place a very real cost on a system which should be there to support our most vulnerable citizens."
In 2011 Work and Income and the Ministry of Social Development's Integrity Services worked together to trial a new service in the central region, including Palmerston North and Taranaki.
Clients who had previously been prosecuted for benefit fraud or had an overpayment established following an investigation were placed in a one-to-one service with a case manager.
"These people have proven, through their own actions, that they are willing to be dishonest with the welfare system and take money they are not entitled to," Mr Borrows said. "With these new measures we will have sensible steps to prevent them repeating this behaviour, such as requiring them to deal face to face with a single case manager."
The trial meant all transactions were made face to face and case managers were able to receive the information they needed to confirm the client's circumstances were accurate.
Palmerston North Salvation Army community ministries manager Kevin Richards said there would probably be an increase in demand if access to welfare is reduced.
"In terms of the centre in Palmerston North, if welfare clients have their access reduced, that will probably result in increased demand on our centre," he said.
"When you reduce someone's access to any kind of welfare it has the potential to make things more difficult for them. But at the same time it seems fairly obvious the Government is looking for more accountability from beneficiaries in terms of the decisions they make and the things they do - I suppose they are looking for a balance."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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