National’s Upston criticised for ‘soft on benefit sanctions’ claim

Kay Brereton from the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation has hit back against National’s Social Development spokesperson  saying “the Government going soft on benefit sanctions, saying it was sad when parties seek to punish people with ‘inadequate incomes’.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni: ““MSD has made significant shifts in its service delivery over the last year to improve its service culture and ensure that people are getting the support they are entitled to and that they are not unfairly sanctioned”

Louise Upston (National): “The number of people claiming the job seeker benefit has increased by 11,000 because the Government is going soft on benefit sanctions and those who don’t want to work”.

Ensuring people get benefits and assistance they are entitled to has been an issue for some time. There has also been obvious philosophical differences between National and other parties over whether benefits shouldn’t be difficult to get, that they should be more of a choice for those who feel they need assistance. National opposes benefits being a sort of lifestyle choice.

Carmel Sepuloni:  Benefit rates remain low

The total proportion of working age people on a main benefit is 9.9% compared to 9.8% in the December quarter last year.

Rates on main benefit are different from the official unemployment rate, which was last recorded at 3.9 percent, down from 4.7 percent at the same time the previous year.

“The latest benefit figures show that more people who are applying for hardship assistance are getting it. The need has been there for years but under this Government people know where to go when they need support.

“This has seen a rise in the level of hardship assistance being given, particularly food grants and emergency housing grants.

“MSD has made significant shifts in its service delivery over the last year to improve its service culture and ensure that people are getting the support they are entitled to and that they are not unfairly sanctioned, driving them and their families into further poverty.”

Louise Upston (National MP):  Benefits up as Govt makes it easier to do nothing

The number of people claiming the job seeker benefit has increased by 11,000 because the Government is going soft on benefit sanctions and those who don’t want to work, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.

“Over the past year there has been a 42 per cent decline in the number of people who have been sanctioned for failing to meet the basic criteria which goes with receiving taxpayer’s money. That includes simply turning up to appointments.

“Given that unemployment has decreased, it’s inexplicable that the number of people on a jobseeker benefit would increase so rapidly and that the Government would make it easier for people to avoid work.

“The Minister needs to explain why so many more people are lining up for benefit, while at the same time there aren’t enough people to plant Shane Jones’ ‘billion’ trees or to pick fruit from our orchards.

“For the past ten years the total number of people on benefit has been decreasing because the National Government was focused on creating jobs and getting people into work, and making sure people met their obligations.

“Now for the first time in a decade with unemployment at record lows the number of people on benefits has increased rapidly – by more than 9000.

“It’s especially disappointing to see that the number of 18-24 year-olds receiving a benefit has increased by 10 per cent. It’s this age group which needs the most encouraging to get into work to avoid a lifetime of benefit dependency.

“National is aspirational for all New Zealanders. We believe that people deserve a fair go, but not a free ride. Employment is the best way to lift families out of poverty.”

National have a hard line ‘tough but fair’ approach that is quite different to the softer ‘more compassionate’ approach of the current Government.

About 134,000 people are receiving jobseeker support, an 8.3 percent jump from last year.

About 8500 sanctions were applied in the December 2018 quarter, a decrease of more than 6000 compared to the previous year.

1 News: Advocate hits back over National’s call for more benefit sanctions

Kay Brereton from the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation says it is sad when political parties seek to punish a certain percentage of people with inadequate income.

the easing of disciplinary action is being applauded by Kay Brereton from the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation.

Ms Brereton said she knew of people who had been docked for not attending an appointment, because they were at their part-time job.

The increase in people on the jobseeker benefit might be because more people were now being deemed eligible, she said.

She said it was sad political parties thought a certain percentage of those with inadequate income should be punished.

Some see limits to what assistance can be obtained, and inadequate assistance (not enough money), as punishment. Greens have gone as far as advocated for a virtual no questions asked approach to giving out benefits and grants.

National’s ‘firm, fair’ approach is seen by some as unfair and even draconian, but al they can do from Opposition is complain about the easing up on sanctions against people who appear (to some) to choose a benefit over work.

There has to be a balance between providing state care, assistance and money but encouraging people to be responsible for their own financial situations and earning money for themselves. There continues to be a significant difference between National’s tougher approach and the current Government’s more lenient leanings.