[Sitting date: 26 June 2012. Volume:681;Page:3274. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
MELISSA LEE (National) to the
Minister for Social Development: What commitments has the Government made to reduce long-term welfare dependency?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development)
: As part of this Government’s Better Public Services programme we have committed to reducing the number of long-term beneficiaries. After legislation changes next year, this will combine those currently on the unemployment-related benefit, sickness benefit, DPB with children over 14 years, widows benefit, and women alone benefit. Jobseeker support is projected to have 130,000 people on it, 78,000 of whom will have been on a benefit for more than 12 months. We will reduce that by 30 percent.
Melissa Lee: How does this target to reduce long-term welfare dependency fit with the Government’s current welfare reforms?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: This is part of our investment approach. Under the welfare reform programme, when you look at how we are going to work with people who are on benefits, the reality is that for those who are particularly on benefits long term and for longer than 12 months, I think they can expect to see more support going into them, more help for the training that they need to get them into work, and the upskilling to help them get those jobs that they desperately want and need.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she consider her target to reduce the number of long-term beneficiaries by 30 percent by 2017 ambitious enough, when it means the number will still be 20,000 higher than when she took office?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: That is not actually factually correct, and I will take the member through as to why.
Jacinda Ardern: Show me.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I can take the member through, actually, and I am quite happy to table this, if that would help. So, for an example, in March 2007, considering those who were on the unemployment benefit, those who were on the sickness benefit, and those who were on the domestic purposes benefit with children aged 14-plus, we had 61,551; in March 2008—if that helps the member—we had 52,288. Look at the policy. If the member looks at the target, how we are making it up, and the reductions, 20,000 is factually incorrect.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would take the Minister up on her offer to table that document.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the Minister was quoting from an official document—[Interruption] It is not an official document, so the member cannot—
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister said during her answer to the question that she was willing to table the document.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is absolutely up to the Minister. Members cannot raise points of order about that matter.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Next time the Minister makes that statement, should I take a point of order that her statements are—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The House does not need to waste time like this. The member knows that if Ministers are quoting from official documents, the member can most certainly require to have them tabled. We checked, and the Minister has advised that it is not an official departmental document. It is presumably information prepared for her answer, and it is up to her whether she seeks leave to table it. We will see what happens shortly.
Melissa Lee: How many people currently on benefits who have been on for longer than 12 months will be included as part of this target?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think this might help with the previous question, as well. As at April 2012, 135,416 people were receiving benefits that will make up jobseeker support. Of this number, 78,074 had been receiving a benefit for more than 12 months. This is made up of 38,927 who are receiving the sickness benefit, 23,031 who are receiving the unemployment benefit or unemployment training, 12,212 who are receiving the domestic purposes benefit—sole parent—and 3,904 who are receiving the widows benefit. That is how that benefit is made up. Those are the ones who have been on benefits for longer than 12 months. Those are the ones that we will be reducing.
Hon Paula Bennett: I seek leave, as I think we should do at the end of our question, not the middle of it—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The Minister will just seek leave.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I seek leave to table a document that was made up by my office, but which does give the numbers of those who have been on long-term benefits from March 1997 to March 2012.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.