Welfare Numbers Dropping significant Fall In Numbers On PB, Sickness, And Unemployment Benefits

  • Peter McCardle
Associate Minister of Social Services, Work and Income (Work and Income)

The first four months of 1999 has seen for the first time a significant concurrent drop in the numbers of people on three of the
main benefits. The numbers have fallen after decades of generally rising trends, figures released by Associate Social
Services, Work and Income Minister Peter McCardle show.

"There are two main reasons for this turnaround. The changes the Government has made to the welfare system are
succeeding, and the second factor is the growing economy," Mr McCardle said.

The primary aim of the welfare changes was to help people get off benefits and into work, with WINZ being created to
achieve that.

The new figures reveal the numbers on the DPB, Sickness Benefit and the Community Wage have fallen consistently this
year, as the policy changes which encourage people to return to the workforce kicked in.

The figures for the first four months of 1999 are:


1 Jan 1999..... 114,137
23 April 1999 ..... 110,995
This is a fall of 3142. The number has fallen every month in 1999, and coincides with the new policy of having integrated
interviews for sole parent beneficiaries, with the emphasis on finding suitable job opportunities.

2) COMMUNITY WAGE (SICKNESS ), formerly the Sickness Benefit

1 Jan 1999.... 34,075
23 April 1999....32,868

This is a fall of 1207. The number has fallen each month this year. Sickness beneficiaries are not work-tested, but many of
them discuss plans for future employment with their WINZ case officer.


30 Dec 1998.... 174,300
30 April 1999.... 157,525

This is a fall of 16,775. Key factors responsible are the economic pickup, and the time of year.

"It is early days but the drop in numbers on Sickness and DP benefits is welcome," Mr McCardle said. "It means people are
moving off a range of benefits and into work or training, as was intended by the Government reforms. As a result, the
welfare bill falls, taxpayers have fewer people to support on benefits, and the jobseekers themselves rejoin the mainstream
and gain all the benefits of work such as higher incomes, self esteem, and workskills.

"WINZ was established primarily to bring closer links between employment and benefits. Formerly, staff at Income Support
dealt only with benefits, and those at the Employment Service dealt only with work or training. But WINZ staff now handle
both areas, and that's a big improvement.

"They actively look at putting at people into work as the first option, an approach which led recently to a woman getting a
job after 22 years on the DPB.

"The Government's changes encourage people on benefits to actively look for work or training rather than simply receiving a

"WINZ is doing the job it was established to do. There have inevitably been teething problems with the new organisation,
which deals with 850,000 people, but in the big picture the results are looking positive.

"In conjunction with the critical presence of economic growth, there is good reason to be optimistic that the recent welfare
reforms and WINZ's ground-breaking case management are reversing the trend of rising numbers on the DPB and Sickness
Benefit,'' Mr McCardle concluded.