National promises youth welfare boost

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 14:57 11/08/2014

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National says it will extend its youth welfare service to all under 20s if it forms the next government.

The Government's flagship youth welfare programme has made significant inroads toward lifting educational achievement and reducing benefit dependency. 

National Social Development Spokeswoman Paula Bennett today made an election promise to extend it to an extra 5700 teens who were currently receiving a benefit. 

She said the total extra cost to extend the programme would be "between $10-$15 million".

The scheme currently involves providers working directly with about 3000 16 and 17-year-olds who are on benefits, or unemployed and not receiving any education or training.

"This approach is working well, and that's why we are going to extend it to 19-year-old sole parents, and to many other 18- and 19-year-old beneficiaries who need more support or who are at risk of long-term welfare dependence," Bennett said.

"Many 18- and 19-year-olds coming into Work and Income need more than job search assistance - they need help to get their lives on track, manage their money and pay the bills.

"National supports people in need, but expects them to do everything they can to get back on their feet when they are able."

Under the new policy, Work and Income would assess all under 20s who were seeking a benefit.

Those identified as having "complex needs" would be referred to a youth service provider, where they would receive intensive support and guidance, together with budgeting support and the use of a payment card.

The young people involved must participate in education, training or work-based learning and budgeting, and are given little control of their benefit.

The announcement follows a report released by the ministry last month which showed 16 and 17-year-olds on a benefit accounted for 70 per cent of the ministry's future welfare liability.

By June 30 last year, that welfare liability was $76.5 billion, $7.4b lower than forecast, with $4.4b of the savings directly related to the reforms.

As of May this year, 45.8 per cent of young people who left the programme were not on a benefit three months later. Fewer young parents were also on a benefit; from about 4800 in December 2009 to 2600 in May this year.

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