Fewer sole parents on benefit

Last updated 12:07 17/10/2013

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Since the new Sole Parent Support benefit was introduced in July, 5000 new people have taken up the benefit but there was a net reduction of more than 3000 people overall on the benefit, quarterly figures show.

Figures released today by the Government show on average, sole parents spend 15.8 years on welfare and the total lifetime cost for sole parents is $21 billion, or $234,000 per person.

Data also showed benefits fell to 304,394 in the September quarter.

"A year ago there were almost 321,000 New Zealanders on benefits, that fell by 16,548 since September 2012, and by 5,388 in just the last quarter," Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett said.

But the increasing numbers of single parents spending more than 15 years on the benefit were concerning.

"This is why we've prioritised this group for assistance, particularly teen parents who are most at risk of getting trapped on welfare," Bennett said.

"Teen parents on benefit are required to be in education so they can be better prepared for work, as well as undertaking parenting and budgeting programmes, all of which helps them to become independent."

Figures also showed that since July, more than 10,000 Jobseeker benefits were cancelled due to people finding work. Bennett said on average, about 1500 benefits were cancelled every week due to work placements.

Government welfare reforms were rolled out in July, which included the reduction of the number of benefits from seven to three, compulsory drug-testing for beneficiaries when required by potential employers, increased healthcare obligations for beneficiaries with young children, and an increased focus on getting people into jobs.

Tougher sanctions could also be imposed in the form of having benefits cancelled or cut if a beneficiary failed to comply with requirements. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story said over 3000 single parents have left it to take on work, only to be replaced by 5000 taking up the benefit. In fact there has been a net reduction of 3000 parents on the benefit - meaning fewer people are on it, not more.

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