The Government's welfare reforms are not about going into people's homes, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says.
The Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill was introduced yesterday.
It replaces the current benefits with three new categories: Jobseeker Support, Sole Parent Support and the Supported Living Payment.
It also includes provisions allowing payments to be cut if beneficiaries fail a drug test, have an outstanding arrest warrant, or if parents who do not meet "social obligations" for getting their children into health and education programmes.
In her maiden speech to Parliament, Bennett said she believed in helping people without going into their homes.
There had been increasing pressure for women to return to work once they had children, she said in the speech.
"That staying at home and raising their children is an option that they would not only like to have, but one that they would like to be actively encouraged to do."
It should be a choice for the parents, she said.
"Good government should stay out of people's homes."
Today she said it: "doesn't feel like I'm going into their homes and exactly telling them what to do, it just feels likes I'm trying to put the right kind of care around them and their kids".
The reforms involved wrapping support around beneficiaries to help break down barriers to work, Bennett said.
Opponents of the Government's plan to impose 'social obligations' on beneficiaries say there are not enough early childcare education spaces available.
But Bennett said she'd heard of empty spots that centres were working hard to fill.
"I see there are some barriers in some areas and I think the Minister of Education is putting a lot of resource into breaking those down."
Parents who cannot meet the health and education social obligations, but make an effort to do so, will not have their benefits cut.
"We understand that there are barriers... it is going to be fair and reasonable."
She hit back at people who said the welfare reforms were benefit bashing.
"I think actually to ignore them and leave them there for long periods of time, I think that's picking on them."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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