National’s Welfare Reforms Fueling Debate

June 1, 2011 New Zealand Finance

Welfare Reforms New ZealandControversy is rising over the National Party’s proposed plans to reform New Zealand’s welfare system, with supporters claiming that the proposed changes will lead to a reduction in crimes.

On May 31st the National party revealed a centerpiece in its election year campaign promises, saying that a wealth of significant changes will be carried out to the welfare system of New Zealand. Prime Minister John Key said that the party has taken a policy stance of “if you can work, you must work” in relation to welfare support.

The National Party intends to pursue reforms in line with recommendations put forward by the Welfare Working Group in February this year. It was suggested that rules regarding benefit entitlement be tightened, and much stricter job hunting requirements be placed on beneficiaries. The Group suggested that a new organization be established to replace Work and Income New Zealand, to administer welfare support through a series of specialist case managers. The amount that beneficiaries are entitled to is also set to drop, with mandatory reductions after a year on the benefit.

Commenting on the government’s intentions to pursue the changes, Garth McVicar, spokesperson for Sensible Sentencing Trust, said that the changes will reduce crime in New Zealand. He suggested that the current system allows some beneficiaries to receive welfare payments without working, allowing them to spend their time “scoping out people’s houses, instead of working”. However, Former Green MP and prominent political activist Sue Bradford opposed Garth McVicar’s view, saying that the new changes will lead to the opposite effect, with a greater number of beneficiaries turning to crime and other illicit activities.

Photo by .craig