Beneficiaries increasingly failing drug tests, numbers show

A fraction of beneficiaries are found to have failed or refused drug tests for job placements, though numbers are on the ...
DAVID BEBBER.

A fraction of beneficiaries are found to have failed or refused drug tests for job placements, though numbers are on the increase.

Losing their benefit may not be the deterrent the Government thought for the small but increasing number of beneficiaries failing or refusing drug tests.

The very low numbers of beneficiaries not passing a test since the law changed was taken by critics as proof that drug use was not widespread among those on government allowances. But the Government saw it as evidence the policy was acting as a deterrent.

However, new figures obtained under the Official Information Act show a slight increase in the number of failures and refusals.

Beneficiaries must pass drug tests if a Work and Income-listed job asks them to, or face their allowance being cut by half or in full. Before the changes were introduced in July 2013, beneficiaries could refuse to apply for jobs that required a drug test.

The social development minister at the time, Paula Bennett, lauded the policy as a success when, in the first 12 weeks, only 22 tests were positive – or about 1.8 each week.

But according to Official Information Act responses, a year after the scheme began, there was an average of 2.3 failures a week. In 2014, there were 134 failures, or about 2.6 each week.

Only one person failed both an initial and follow-up test.

Information from the ministry showed less than half of these cases resulted in sanctions. In 2014, benefits were cut in half for 33 cases, including twice for families with children. Another 27 times, allowances were fully cancelled.

A statement with the Official Information Act response noted the 2014 figures might include the same person being sanctioned more than once.

Those who failed to comply were given a warning and a reasonable period of time to stop using drugs and take another test before they are sanctioned, Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said in a statement.

Ad Feedback

"It's pleasing the vast majority of those who are required to undertake drug testing are meeting their obligations and passing a drug test.

"We're focused on supporting people into work, and recreational drug use is not an acceptable excuse for avoiding available work."

Beneficiary advocate Kay Brereton said the numbers demonstrated it was not illegal drug use preventing the country's 285,000 beneficiaries from getting work.

"It's because there aren't jobs," Brereton said. "It's a classic waste of government money, where they think there's a problem, but they don't do any research and spend a whole lot of money changing the law when there was actually no problem."

When she announced the policy, Bennett said it would target recreational drug users, but would also drive dependent drug users to get treatment. It was estimated the policy might save the country $10 million each year.

Brereton believed it was "more about painting beneficiaries in a really bad way ... making it sound like there were a whole lot of beneficiaries sitting around smoking pot".

The severity of benefit cuts were based on how many times a person had failed in the variety of obligations Work and Income set. But any client with a child living with them would get their allowances cut by no more than half to protect families.

The unemployment rate had improved since the changes were introduced. In June 2013, the unemployment rate was 6.4 per cent while in March this year, it had dropped to 5.7 per cent.

The Ministry of Social Development declined an interview request.

- Comments are now closed.

 - Stuff

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

On front line with 8 hours training

Mental health victim advocate Graeme Moyle's brother Colin was murdered by his mentally ill flatmate. Moyle says police ...

Cops now go to 98 mental health-related callouts a day, but they're "not experts" on what to do.

How he got hit by a speed boat

He needed multiple stitches in his arm and staples in his head.

At first Bodhi Garvin thought it was a bee. Then "bam - I got hit".

Family 'in the dark' over crash

Nathan was described by family as courageous and loving.

Three days on from a crash which left two teenagers dead, family still have "no idea" what happened, and why.

Eden Park concert decision due

Eden Park boss Nick Sautner said the park's trustees would make an announcement on whether the concert would go ahead on ...

Trustees will decide whether the $750,000 costs surrounding a proposed Live Aid-style concert are justified.

Wellington

Prison fugitive named

Donald Keepa, who escaped custody after an incident at Hutt Hospital on Monday, is 172cm tall, of medium build, with ...

Donald Keepa was at Hutt Hospital when he escaped custody and went on the run.

Just 8 hours' training

Mental health victim advocate Graeme Moyle's brother Colin was murdered by his mentally ill flatmate. Moyle says police ...

Cops now go to 98 mental health-related callouts a day, but they're "not experts" on what to do.

Robbers' sex act was a 'hate crime'

Laura Landon at first said she didn't know of the robbery plan, but then said she was forced to take part.

Woman who performed sex act during robbery of a gay man loses appeal against her jail sentence.

Dynamo's capital show vanishes video

Magician Dynamo was set to perform on Monday night at 8pm but the show has been postponed to Tuesday.

Night of magic no longer on the cards with Dynamo's first night in Wellington postponed.

Canterbury

Cold on council insulation claim

McKenzie hopes the council will make amends by insulating her neighbours' homes, and any others that may be under-insulated.

The council told Lynda McKenzie the job wasn't possible. It wasn't, until she got it done herself.

Cathedral secrecy fear

Regeneration minister Megan Woods and joint venture head Justin Murray on June 29.

Project will use $35m in public money and be controlled by three private entities.

Child porn criminal named

Harley James, who has been jailed for possession of child pornography, in action for Sefton Cricket Club.

Former Canterbury cricketer abandons name suppression appeal after being jailed on child pornography charges.

Hotel revamp, new office tower

The former Rydges Hotel, pictured in 2016, is being gutted in preparation for renovation.

Owner wants to return Rydges hotel to its former glory - soon after meeting its insurer in court.

Waikato

Mission to feed the needy

Seerat Singh hands out warm milo.

They wake in the small hours to make curry for dozens, and there's no shortage of those in need of a hot meal.

Ban homeless: Bridges

Simon Bridges completed a nationwide tour speaking to supporters and party members in Tauranga.

Bylaw to ban begging and sleeping rough in Tauranga backed by Simon Bridges.

Murray's final costs revealed

Dr Nigel Murray resigned abruptly from the Waikato DHB in October 2017 while an investigation into his expenses was ...

Former Waikato health boss spent another $1850 after staffer took on his role.

Car full of mates in fatal crash

Jayden Braniff was killed in a crash at Gordonton and Thomas Rd intersection.

Young man died in front passenger seat in crash at notorious intersection, while three mates were largely uninjured.

northland

$100,000 of avocados stolen

Kaikohe avocado farmer Graeme Burgess had 115 trees stripped of fruit by thieves.

"All my life I've helped people and this is what I get back" devastated Northland farmer says.

Face burnt in explosion

Affco freezing works in the main street in Moerewa was open again on Friday.

WorkSafe investigation launched following an explosion that left a man with severe burns.

Man seriously injured after blast

A man has serious burns after reports of an explosion at Affco freezing works in Moerewa, Northland.

The man with serious burns has been transported to Middlemore Hospital in Auckland.

Flotation devices placed at beaches

Pat Millar with flotation devices at Cable Bay in the Far North.

After losing a whānau member in a tragic drowning earlier this year, a woman hopes flotation devices at Far North beaches will prevent a recurrence.

Bay Of Plenty

Ka Pai Kai celebrates one year

Back where it all started, Ka Pai Kai Rotorua Charitable Trust kitchen coordinator Karyn Rogers and chair Jasmin Jackson ...

A year ago their aim was healthy lunch kai for Rotorua's kids. Now they're making 800 a week.

Chiefs' season review

The Chiefs' Super Rugby campaign ended last Friday night, after a season of several ups and downs.

It was a year of mixed emotions for the beaten quarterfinalists.

Ban homeless, Bridges says

Simon Bridges completed a nationwide tour speaking to supporters and party members in Tauranga.

A bylaw that would ban begging and sleeping rough in Tauranga is supported by National party leader Simon Bridges. 

Bella Vista negotiations delayed

Andre and Chloe Stewart say losing their Bella Vista home has caused much stress on their family and asked for full ...

Bella Vista homeowners have waited 45 days for negotiations to start, but now council wants more tests.

Taranaki

Free parking for tug's arrival

The lee breakwater at Port Taranaki will offer the best vantage point to view the arrival of the port's newest tug ...

 Move over Scuffy, there's a new tug coming to town.

A future on hold

The operators of the stadium, NPDC, say they have been working around the clock to get everything in place.

A decision on Yarrow Stadium's future is not likely to be made until 2019.

Man accused of molesting girl

A jury trial in the New Plymouth District Court has begun regarding a 2017 sex abuse allegation involving a young ...

Young girl recalls in court how she confronted her alleged abuser and told her mother what he did.

Gas pumping again

Pohokura natural gas production station near Motunui, North Taranaki, is receiving gas condensate from offshore after a ...

Vital offshore gas pipeline section repaired but may need replacing.

Manawatu

Feilding sneak draw with Napier

Feilding High School first XV midfielder Faleseu Tauailoto on his way to the tryline against Napier Boys' High School.

RUGBY: A draw and a loss for the region's top two secondary school sides.

Teen injured in rugby

A boy was flown to Burwood Hospital in Christchurch after being seriously injured during a Feilding High School rugby ...

Feilding rugby player flown to Burwood Hospital is awake and eating.

Limbrick St dairy robbed

Police were called to Limbrick St, after the Limbrick Maxi Mart was robbed just after 7pm on Monday.

A witness saw the thieves escape in a green station wagon, driving towards the town centre.

Full-day strike possible

New Zealand primary school teachers may now extend their strike next month from a half day to a full day.

Primary teachers consider ramping up industrial action this term.

Nelson

Man takes out takeaway shop

The car took out the front right-hand corner of Smiley's Takeaways in Westport in May.

A Nelson fisherman caught more than he bargained for after he downed a bottle of rum and got behind the wheel, driving through the front of a Westport takeaway shop.

Heavy snow warning

The Crown Range Rd from Queenstown to Wanaka is now open
after being closed due to heavy snow on Sunday night.

Nelson in the firing line as a system sweeps up the island, bringing a warning to those travelling over to Takaka.

'Quite complicated' deep quake

Sunday's 5.2-magnitude earthquake was widely felt.

Sunday's magnitude 5.2 quake near Nelson happened at a depth where the geology "starts to get quite complicated", a seismologist says.

Coroner rules on crash death

A coroner has found that Alethea Scott, 78, died from the complications of multiple traumatic injuries sustained in the ...

A motorcyclist who killed a Christchurch woman had nowhere to go, a coroner has ruled.

Marlborough

Olympians of the wine variety

Matua winemaker Peter Russell takes part in the 1-metre spittoon at the Vin Olympics.

Young winemakers take timeout from the daily grind to go head-to-head in a battle of barrel rolling, egg splitting and water spitting.

'Slippery when wet'

Karen Burrows has seen people come a cropper on the slippery pavers outside her work.

You've heard of 'drive to the conditions'. In Blenheim, they 'walk to the conditions'.

'Quite complicated' deep quake

Sunday's 5.2-magnitude earthquake was widely felt.

Sunday's quake deep on Australian Plate, or on subducting slab of Pacific Plate.

SH1 back on track

Traffic numbers on SH1 have almost bounced back to pre-quake levels since the road re-opened in December.

NZ Transport Agency numbers show people are back on the rebuilt road.

South Canterbury

Engine's return gathers steam

After five years, Pleasant Point Railway and Historical Society's AB699 steam locomotive to being recommissioned.

Pleasant Point's AB699 nearly ready to be fired up for the public for the first time in five years.

Accom fair costs call

Bay City Motor Lodge owner/operator Peter Edgar says there needs to be a level playing field in terms of compliance costs.

Accom providers are calling for cost consistencies as new figures show Airbnb bookings have skyrocketed.

Pressure on Celtic ahead of final video

Temuka's Semisi Paseka with the ball during their Hamersley Cup elimination semifinal match against Celtic at Alpine ...

Pressure on Celtic as it shoots for a 10th consecutive Hamersley Cup title.

Musical requires 'open minds'

Looking forward to performing Wayne Doyle's mini musical, No Strings Attached, are, from left, David Mortimer, Paul ...

Humour, swearing, and disco music feature in Wayne Doyle's latest play.

Otago

Item found in chopper search video

Pilot Matthew Timothy Wallis is thought to have died after his helicopter crashed into Lake Wanaka.

Sonar spots item 47 metres under water in the search for crashed chopper.

Dunedin crash victim named

Part of a busy Dunedin street was closed after a car flipped on its side last Monday.

A man who died in a crash on a major Dunedin street has been named.

Heavy snow warning

The Crown Range Rd from Queenstown to Wanaka is now open
after being closed due to heavy snow on Sunday night.

Nelson and Buller at risk of a dumping of heavy snow, MetService says.

Missing pilot presumed dead

Pilot Matthew Timothy Wallis is thought to have died after his helicopter crashed into Lake Wanaka.

Police shift search to recovery with well-known pilot presumed dead after a helicopter crash at Lake Wanaka.

Southland

Partner not responsible for death

Tamara Schmidt was was lying on the road when she was hit by a car on State Highway 1 in Southland in 2015.

Woman run over near Bluff after argument with partner was lying on the road, affected by sleeping pills and alcohol.

Dancer shines on stage

Invercargill dancer Bella Robert, 18, has returned from Kairos Dance Convention in Auckland with a long list of ...

Bella Robert recently returned from the Kairos Dance Convention in Auckland with a long list of scholarships.

Te Anau artist one to watch

People check out the Riversdale Arts 45th Mixed Media Exhibition on gala night on Friday.

Installation celebrating farming a hit at the Riversdale Arts annual exhibition.

Commitment to volunteer work video

Long-serving volunteers Myra McNatty, left, and Clare Anderson in the kitchen at Age Concern Southland in Invercargill.

 Volunteers are cooking meals for the elderly to take away at Age Concern Southland.

Ad Feedback