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Welfare measures to target 'vulnerable' beneficiaries

Published: 3:56PM Sunday September 23, 2012 Source: ONE News

Not all beneficiaries will be tested under the Government's proposed social obligation measures, according to the Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

Nearly two weeks ago, Bennett made an announcement as part of National's welfare reform that beneficiaries with children must comply with a list of social obligations targeting vulnerable children.

These obligations include enrolling children in Early Childhood Education from age three, attend primary school at age five or six, and enrolling with a General Practitioner.

Bennett today told TV One's Q+A the tests would only apply to beneficiaries who they class as "vulnerable" based on Social Development data.

"We don't have the resources, and, in fact, some of them will comply without us checking on them and we don't need to, so we take a subset," said Bennett. 

"In this case, we're going to take a subset of who we consider to be most vulnerable."

Bennett said there were around 220,000 children whose parents were on a benefit but the tests would only apply to around 20,000 to 25,000 children every year.

But opponents say the threats still hangs over all beneficiaries.

"We find the policy incredibly stigmatising," said Auckland Action against poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

"Basically, what this policy is doing or what it's saying to the New Zealand public is that people who receive benefits are bad parents and that those parents actually need to be punished."

Bennett denied the testing would stigmatise a section of parents on welfare.

"And at the end of the day, my focus is really firmly on those children.  And I look at it, and I go, 'If you know what we know, so we know the benefits of early-childhood education, we know that getting enrolled with a GP, having those well-child checks is hugely beneficial for those children," said Bennett.

Reforms will come into affect in July 2013 and cost around $1.4 million a year to administrate.