16 Dec 2008

Package for laid-off workers revealed

9:07 am on 16 December 2008

People made redundant will be able to claim extra welfare payments for up to 16 weeks under a scheme announced by the Government in Parliament on Monday.

In revealing details of its package, the Government said laid-off workers with children would be able to claim up to $60 a week for up to three children, and $15 a week extra for each additional child.

People who qualify for the maximum accommodation supplement would also receive that, as well as an extra $100 a week.

The Government says it has allowed for extra assistance payments for up to 70,000 people who may be made redundant in the next two years.

But it says the assistance scheme is designed only to give people breathing space.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett acknowledges that the payments will not solve every financial problem, saying the scheme is designed to be of only temporary assistance.

If those laid off get more than $25,000 in redundancy pay or have more than $16,000 in the bank, they will not be eligible.

Entitlement will be backdated until the election date of 8 November, and anyone made redundant since then has until mid-January to apply.

Those who are self-employed will also be eligible if they can no longer draw income from their business.

Deutsche Bank chief economist Darren Gibbs said a higher number of people than is being allowed for under the scheme may lose their jobs.

He is expecting 80,000 fewer people to be working 18 months from now, and his upper estimate is that the number of jobless could swell as high as 100,000.

Labour deputy leader Annette King said the assistance is welcome, but there should also be help to re-train people.

Ms King says the government should focus on economic stimulus and getting people back into jobs.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett told Morning Report the Government is already delivering tax cuts, with a boost to infrastructure work still to be rolled out.