New welfare rules come into force
NZPA
Last updated 09:35 27/09/2010

The Government's new Future Focus provisions, designed to put more onus on beneficiaries to find work, come into being today amidst renewed concern over the effects.

The Social Security (New Work Tests, Incentives and Obligations) Act, which was designed as part of a push to break the cycle of welfare dependency, includes introducing a part-time work test for domestic purposes beneficiaries with children aged over six, and requiring unemployment beneficiaries to reapply for their benefit every 12 months.

Abatement rates will also be increased for some benefits, an initiative which will financially benefit thousands of people and provide an added incentive to work.

From next May measures will be brought in to ensure sickness beneficiaries return to part-time work where possible.

The measures have been criticised as an attack on the rights of beneficiaries and unrealistic at a time when jobs are difficult to come by.

"This punitive change to welfare law is an attack on the underlying principle that welfare is the provision of assistance to all New Zealanders in their time of need," Wellington People's Centre advocacy co-ordinator Kay Brereton said.

The changes added solo parents with their youngest child aged over six to the tens of thousands of unemployed who faced sanctions on their benefits if Work and Income did not think they were trying hard enough to find jobs.

"There is no longer any negotiation about what steps someone will take to seek work. The decision about what is suitable will be put in the hands of the case managers, whom people often experience as disinterested bureaucratic and incompetent," she said.

The Government says people generally want to work and are happier when they are in employment, and the measures will ensure those who genuinely need support get it, while making it tougher for those who use benefits as a lifestyle choice.

From here.