A controversial new welfare bill has been passed into law by the Government, depsite protests from the Opposition.
The new laws, designed to cut the number of young people on benefits and toughen work tests for sole parents, also requires mothers to go back to work earlier in their children’s lives, and teens on the dole to have their welfare payments controlled
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said it was a less passive approach to welfare and more work-focussed.
The Opposition said it penalised those keen to work but finding employment tough to come by in tight economic times.
From next month, 16 and 17-year-old beneficiaries and teen parents would not receive their welfare payment personally, but instead have it paid to a Youth Service Provider.
They would pay their rent and utilities, and help them to budget.
“Previously the system has paid a benefit to these groups and then effectively left them to it,” Mrs Bennett told the New Zealand Herald.
“This is going to change.”
From October, sole parents would have to make themselves available for part-time work when their youngest child turned five, and full-time work when their youngest turned 14.
Previously, sole parents could remain on welfare until their children were 18.
Women on the the widow’s benefit and women alone benefit would also face tougher work tests.
Mrs Bennett said young people now faced greater obligation to work, but would have greater support in getting into education.
She denied the changes showed a lack of compassion.
She claimed the DPB after having a child in her teens.
“I’ve a huge amount of respect for people who are raising their families with little money. I just want them to have more.”
Labour’s social development spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said National’s perception that welfare was a chosen “lifestyle” was misguided.
“We only need to look in our local areas where a job is advertised and the enormous queues which extend outside of … supermarkets … to know Kiwis want to work.”
“Changes in this area needed to reach all the young people whose potential is currently being wasted, not just a few, and they need to be based on getting the best outcomes, not just getting people off the books.”