The Ministry of Social Development has released the latest quarterly benefit figures, including a comparison of the new regime and the old.
Three new categories - Jobseeker Support, Sole Parent Support, and Supported Living Payment - replaced seven old benefits*as of yesterday (Monday July 15); and in a press statement, the Minister of Social Development says the clear comparison between the old and new systems upholds a transparent approach to reporting benefit statistics. Some changes were implemented last year and Paula Bennett believes the evidence speaks for itself.
"There are currently 309,782 people on benefits in New Zealand, a reduction from 310,146 the previous quarter and down from 320,041 the year prior," said Mrs Bennett. "That’s a reduction of more than 10,000 on welfare over the past 12 months and I am particularly pleased that 5,600 of them are sole parents."
However, critics remain skeptical. Yesterday, groups such as Auckland Action Against Poverty, and the Council of Trade Unions, suggested that the reforms merely pushed beneficiaries off the government's expense ledger - not necessarily into jobs.
But Mrs Benentt said figures do show that, "In the last quarter alone more than 21,600 went off welfare into paid work." She was confident that getting others into work is achievable because 50 percent of solo parents are employed, and expressed admiration for "every one of them."
Today, the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust has brought attention to the situation facing elderly primary caregivers. Trust chair, Diane Vivian, says she has heard from grandparents who worried about how the new Job Seekers' reform may affect them, because many are receiving letters to go to a Work and Income office for an appointment.
While benefit payments have not changed, there are new conditions placed on beneficiaries, such as rules around drug testing, outstanding arrest warrants, and new social obligations for beneficiaries with dependent children. Paula Bennett believes these changes will not only ensure that taxpayer-funded benefits are being spent more wisely, but will also encourage gainful employment.
"Expectations and obligations are clearer and have a much greater work focus, with more support to help people move off welfare into work."
- Newstalk ZB/ RBG News
* NB. Remaining benefits: Emergency Benefit, Emergency Maintenance Allowance, Orphan’s Benefit, Unsupported Child’s Benefit, Youth Payment, Youth Parent Payment, New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension.
Unemployment, DPB and Sickness Benefits won't exist from today.
It's part of a shake up of New Zealand's welfare system that brings tough new measures for those on a benefit.
It's been replaced by Jobseeker Support, Sole Parent Support and Supported Living Payment for people significantly restricted by sickness, injury or disability.
Council of Trade Union general secretary Peter Conway says re-labelling people job seekers, doesn't mean there are suddenly jobs there for them. He says the social obligations being put on them and the ability of the Government to cut their benefit is a form of beneficiary bashing which he describes as unfortunate.
Other welfare reforms coming into force today include, compulsory drug testing for some job-seekers, health and education obligations for parents of young children and an obligation for those on the DPB to look for at least part time work when their youngest turns five.
Peter Conway says there are concerns about how intrusive the testing is, and what form it takes. He says for them to front up for these drug tests before they're in employment, and face the prospect of having their benefit cut, is discriminatory.
Auckland Action Against Poverty says people who end up on welfare will have more hoops to jump through, or face punitive measures.
Spokeswoman Sarah Thompson says the reforms aren't about getting people into decent work or job creation, they're about cutting costs by pushing vulnerable people off the books.
- RBG NEWS/Newstalk ZB
Brad Mills with today's headlines including the fire west of Wellsford; the governments crack down on welfare fraud; US fears of cyber hacking from China and good news for Wellington after the financial benefits of the Hobbit premier are announced.
Shine TV's bulletins are produced by RBG News, part of the Rhema Broadcasting Group.
Major changes are pending around the way non-government agencies involved in social programmes are funded by the Government.
NGOs have been briefed at Parliament today by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett and senior ministry officials.
They have been told the current model, which allocates over half a billion dollars a year, will be changed with the aim to have new measures in place by the end of next year.
MSD is to look closely at its current funding models and NGOs are being told they will have to look at working together, particularly in areas where different NGOs are contracted to provide similar services.
Ms Bennett is promising the quantum of funding will be retained, but its method of delivery will be changed.
RBG News / Newstalk ZB
The Employers and Manufacturers Association is welcoming job advertisements that will boost disabled peoples' chances.
Delegates at the National Disability Conference want to look at a British scheme where employers use a 'two-ticks' symbol when advertising job opportunities to show they are friendly to disabled workers. Those signed up to the scheme would guarantee interviews for disabled applicants that meet the job criteria.
The NZ Herald reports New Zealand's 58,000 sickness beneficiaries, and possibly some on invalid benefits, will be targeted under the "investment approach" of the new welfare reforms that aim to help beneficiaries into work.
Disabled Persons Assembly Chief Executive, Rachel Noble, says many people were ruled out as soon as employers realised they had a disability, but most were willing and able to work if employers would give them a chance.
- RBG News/Newstalk ZB/NZ Herald
Cameron Eagle brings you the day's headlines, including the retraction of changes to teacher:student funding formulas. From the RBG News team for Shine TV.
Don't forget, you can see our nightly bulletins on Shine TV (Sky 111, Freeview 25, or online) at 6.30,7.30, 8.30 and 9.30
Budget 2012 has freed up $4.4 billion to invest in improving frontline public services and getting better results, while running a zero Budget, Finance Minister Bill English says.
“At a time when the Government’s finances are constrained, these savings provide significant funding to put into new initiatives aimed at improving frontline public services and getting better results for New Zealanders,” Mr English says.
“At the same time, they allow the Government to run a zero Budget, ensuring a return to surplus in 2014/15, based on Budget forecasts.
“The Government is committed to getting better results with limited resources. Redirecting lower priority spending and raising some extra revenue by closing tax loopholes plays a key role in meeting this goal.”
In total, Budget 2012 includes new spending initiatives worth $4.42 billion in the current year and over the next four years, paid for by $4.39 billion in savings and new revenue initiatives. Savings and revenue initiatives include:
Tax and excise changes that net an extra $1.36 billion over four years.
Reprioritisation of $1.28 billion to new spending initiatives within budget votes.
Reprioritisation of $982 million of savings from across budget votes into significant new spending initiatives in areas like health, education, welfare reform, and science and innovation.
$772 million from contingencies.
“These savings are consistent with the Government’s approach across the past three Budgets, which have included reprioritising about $9 billion of spending.
“This Government is focused on getting better results rather than just increasing inputs. If something works, we’ll keep on doing it. If it doesn’t, then we will stop it and put the money into an area that yields better results,” Mr English says.
“At a time when many governments overseas are undertaking radical measures to get their books in order, finding these savings while maintaining high-quality frontline public services and income support to the most vulnerable is an achievement.
“The Government will ensure future Budgets continue to focus on improving frontline public services to deliver better results for New Zealanders, at the same time as improving value for money from more than $70 billion of public spending every year,” Mr English says.
Savings – at a glance
· Extra revenue of $1.36 billion over four years, which goes towards new spending initiatives in priority areas like health, education, science and innovation, and welfare reform. Changes include:
o Increasing tobacco excise by 10 per cent a year on 1 January in each of the next four years ($528 million over four years).
o Increasing tax compliance activity, debt collection, and following up on unfiled returns ($423.8 million gross savings over four years).
o Tightening the tax deductibility rules for mixed-use assets ($109 million over four years).
o Tightening livestock valuation rules ($184 million over four years).
o Removing three tax credits that are generally no longer used for their original purpose ($117.1 million over four years).
· The student support changes in Budget 2012 will provide operating savings of $240.3 million in 2011/12. A further $65 to $74 million a year of operating savings over the next four years will be largely re-invested across the wider tertiary system, while the remainder goes towards new initiatives in other priority areas. Changes include:
o Increasing the student loan repayment rate from 10 per cent to 12 per cent (operating savings of $184.2 million over the next four years).
o Repealing the student loan voluntary repayment scheme (operating savings of $43.5 million over four years).
o Holding the student allowance parental income threshold at its current level for four years (operating savings of $12.7 million over four years).
o Removing student allowance eligibility for more than four years of study (operating savings of $33 million over four years).
· Reprioritisation of $193.5 million in Vote Social Development to help fund the Welfare Reform package. This includes:
o Reprioritising the Youth Transition Services for Youth Services, including wrap-around support ($58.8 million over four years).
o Changes to Work and Income employment assistance ($96.4 million over four years).
o Part of the funding reprioritised from the Quality Services Innovation Fund ($38.3 million across the current year and the next four years).
· Reprioritisation which goes to other priority initiatives within education, including:
o Using contingency funding from previous budgets ($274.9 million over four years).
o More consistent teacher:student ratios ($173.9 million over four years).
· Reprioritisation within Vote Corrections, most of which will go into higher priorities within Corrections and across the wider justice sector. For example:
o $65 million of funding will go towards new and expanded rehabilitation programmes to help meet the Government’s Better Public Services results target of reducing reoffending by 25 per cent by 2017.
o $87 million will go towards the new Justice Sector Fund to give the justice sector flexibility to invest in areas that deliver the best results to New Zealanders.
· As a result of the Expenditure Review, the department is able to meet its cost pressures through reprioritisation over the next four years.
· Reprioritisation of $123.1 million funding into other priorities within Housing, such as the Social Housing Fund to support third-party social housing groups to provide more community housing. Savings include:
o Housing New Zealand efficiency savings ($70 million over five years).
o Weathertight Services under-spend ($34 million in the current year).
o Changes to the Welcome Home Loans Mortgage Insurance Scheme ($19.1 million over five years).
- RBG News/Media Release
What Makes New Zealanders Happy?
If you have a good work/life balance, you keep fit, you’re active in your community, and leaning to the political right, you’re probably happier than your average Kiwi neighbour.
According to a recent poll my UMR research, who surveyed 750 New Zealanders over 18, they came up with some surprising and not so surprising results as to what makes Kiwi’s happy.
Of the more vain statistics found, 1 in four of us think we’re more good looking than average, but that didn’t correspond to being more happy.
Gavin White, a Research Director at UMR, discusses the whole story below.
Paula Bennett On Welfare Reforms
Work testing obligations are about to change for solo parents on the DPB.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has confirmed the move as part of the Government's welfare reforms, announced yesterday.
Currently, part time work obligations are applied to DPB recipients when their child turns six. Ms Bennett says they're now taking that back to five years old, and a parent on the DPB will now be full time work tested when their youngest child is 14.
Ms Bennett describes just what she means by work testing in the audio below.
"Where are the jobs?" is quickly becoming a catch-cry from opposition parties as the government moves on its promised overhaul of the welfare system.
Young people will receive incentives for going into training, mothers forced into part or full time work, and rent and power paid directly out of benefits for some people as part of the changes.
Welfare commentator and blogger, Lindsay Mitchell believes our rapidly ageing population, will provide some of those job opportunities.
Listen below for the whole story.
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