14 Oct 2013

New measures to stop repeat welfare fraudsters

8:16 am on 14 October 2013

New laws have come into effect that crack down on welfare fraudsters and their partners.

Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows says 1500 beneficiaries who have dishonestly obtained taxpayer money will be categorised as "low-trust clients".

Chester Borrows.

Chester Borrows. Photo: RNZ

They will have to go through extra steps to get benefit including providing more means of identification and witnesses to the circumstances in which they claim to be living.

Mr Borrows says partners of beneficiaries will be held accountable if they knew, or should have known, of their partner's fraud.

He says a working partner who has been living off the proceeds of a fraudulent benefit should carry the burden of the debt and have criminal responsibility.

Labour Party welfare spokesperson Su'a William Sio says the Government is vilifying beneficiaries.

He says the real issue is corporate tax-fraud debt, which is six times that owed by welfare fraudsters.

Beneficiary Advocacy Federation spokesperson Kay Brereton says the low-trust client rules are an example of beneficiary bashing and will mean more families go hungry.

She says the initiative was recently piloted in Palmerston North and Taranaki and made beneficiaries feel untrusted.