27 March, 2012
Welfare reform bill passes first reading
The Social Security (Youth Support and Work Focus) Amendment Bill passed its first reading in Parliament today and will be referred to select committee.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says, “this is a significant step in a series of welfare reforms being introduced by this Government”.
“This Bill will deliver a more active welfare system with greater support for young people, some sole parents, widows and women alone.”
The Bill will be referred to the Social Services Select Committee.
“These are the changes the National Government campaigned on and which New Zealanders voted for,” says Ms Bennett.
“The system has been letting people down for years, allowing too many to become trapped in a cycle of dependence and that has to change.”
This Bill will modernise what is an outdated system for youth, sole parents and those on Widow’s and Women Alone benefits.
“Currently the welfare system simply pays benefits to young people and teen parents and effectively leaves them to it, that’s about to change.”
“We will provide more support for these young people and insist they be in education or training if they want to get a benefit, ” says Ms Bennett.
Aspects of the existing welfare system are out of step with modern life, notably; the Widow’s and Women Alone benefits for women only.
“We will not write these groups off as unable to participate in the workforce.”
This builds on work already done by the National Government.
“Before National introduced Future Focus changes, people could stay on the DPB until their youngest child was eighteen years old,” says Ms Bennett.
Future Focus introduced a part time work expectation for those with children six years and over. The Bill now before the House reduces that to five years and introduces a full time work expectation when the youngest is fourteen.
Bill one changes affecting young people and teen parents include:
- A managed system of payments with essential costs like rent and power paid directly, with an allowance and a payment card for living costs.
- Youth Service Providers incentivised to help young people into work, education or training. Young people encouraged to undertake budgeting and parenting courses.
- Guaranteed Childcare Assistance Payment, so childcare costs do not stop young parents from studying.
- Sharing information between ministries to target school leavers most at risk of coming onto a benefit from age 18.
Bill one changes affecting DPB, Widow’s Benefit and Women Alone:
- Ensuring sole parents with children five and older are available for and supported into part-time work.
- Ensuring sole parents with children 14 and older are available for and supported into full-time work.
- Extending these work expectations to women receiving the Widow’s and Women Alone benefits and to partners of beneficiaries with children.
- Enabling Work and Income to direct people to prepare for work early.
- Requiring sole parents who have another child while on a benefit to be available for work after one year, in line with parental leave.