22 Feb 2011

Key vows no benefit cuts

8:00 am on 22 February 2011

Prime Minister John Key has promised the Government will not cut benefits as part of its welfare reforms.

At midday on Tuesday the Welfare Working Group set up by the Government will issue its final report on ways of reforming the welfare system.

Beneficiary groups fear the report will lead to benefit cuts but Mr Key has assured them that that is not the point of the working group.

He says the report is in fact likely to cost the Government in the short-term by recommending more investment in childcare assistance and skills training to help people get off benefits.

Labour leader Phil Goff says everyone wants to break the cycle of dependency on welfare - but the Government does not have the policies in place to achieve it.

Mr Goff says a foundation of a growing economy, improved skills training and affordable childcare for those on low incomes is needed to get people off welfare.

He says the number of people on a benefit has risen not because people are lazy but because jobs have disappeared.

Turia likely to differ

Waatea News reports that the report is likely to pit the associate social development minister, Tariana Turia, against her government colleagues.

The working group is expected to recommend pushing domestic purposes beneficiaries back into the workforce before their youngest child reaches school age.

Mrs Turia told Waatea News that while she favours moves to get the unemployed into work earlier, she's opposed to attacks on women raising their children alone.

Affordable childcare 'hard to find'

Childcare Association chief executive Nancy Bell says many families will find it difficult to secure affordable care if parents return to work.

Leaked details suggest the group's recommendations will include a requirement for sole parents to start looking for work when their youngest child turns three.

Ms Bell says that in many locations there are waiting lists for places, especially for more affordable community-based care - and poorer communities attract fewer private childcare providers.