Welfare reforms clear first hurdle

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 09:23 28/03/2012
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National's controversial welfare reforms are a step closer after proposed legislation passed its first reading in Parliament last night.

The Social Security (Youth Support and Work Focus) Amendment Bill requires parents to start looking for part-time or full-time work depending on the age of their children.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the current system was failing many New Zealanders and had created a cycle of dependency.

"Currently the welfare system simply pays benefits to young people and teen parents and effectively leaves them to it - that's about to change.

"We will provide more support for these young people and insist they be in education or training if they want to get a benefit."

The proposed changes were what New Zealanders had voted for, Bennett said.

"The system has been letting people down for years, allowing too many to become trapped in a cycle of dependence and that has to change."

Labour's deputy leader Grant Robertson said his party would not vote for the legislation which was based on a "culture of blame".

The Government lacked an economic plan to create jobs for beneficiaries to move into, he said.

The Bill was referred to Parliament's social services select committee.

Changes included in the Bill:

* Managed payments for young people and teen parents that will pay essential costs directly and provide a payment card for living costs.

* Youth service providers will be incentivised to help young people into work, education or training.

* Young people will be encouraged to take budget or parenting courses with weekly bonus payments.

* Introduction of a guaranteed childcare assistance payment.

* Information sharing between government departments to target school leavers likely to go on a benefit at 18.

* Sole parents on the DPB, women alone and widow's benefits will have to look for part-time work when their children are five or older.

* They will have to look for full-time work when their children are 14.

* If they have additional children while on a benefit they will have to look for work after one year.

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