17 Jan 2013

Welfare changes 'helping' to cut benefit numbers

7:40 pm on 17 January 2013

The Social Development Minister believes National's welfare changes are partly responsible for reducing benefit numbers to their lowest level under this Government.

Paula Bennett says last year, the number of beneficiaries fell by 12,000 to 339,000 at the end of December.

There was a particularly big drop in the number of people on the Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB) at the end of 2012 after the Government introduced work obligations for sole parents with older children.

Mrs Bennett says she has no doubt that helped contribute to the drop in beneficiary numbers.

"We do have much clearer obligations of people and what we expect of them. They have to be actively looking, to prove that they're looking.

"We've made changes to those on the DPB, and we've seen that come down considerably. We haven't seen actual drops in the DPB like we've seen in the last three months or the last six or seven years.

"I think we'll continue to see benefit figures come down as we change the whole way we work with people. It's a lot more positive in how we're working with people now than I think it's ever been.

"It's a matter of just not saying to people, 'Come on welfare, stay there - this is as good as it gets.'"

Paula Bennett says there is more support being provided now for beneficiaries to move back into work than ever before, but they can only move back to work if an employer is willing to offer them a job.

Despite the drop, Mrs Bennett says there is still a lot of work to do to get people off welfare. The first stage of the Government's welfare changes are still being put in place and stage two has not yet started.

Changes which came into effect in October 2012 mean sole parents with children aged over five will be expected to look for part-time work, and those with children over 14 for fulltime work.