The Green Party today urged the Government to come clean on its full plans for benefit reform.
“Minister Paula Bennett’s answers to questions in the House this afternoon have now given us a revealing glimpse of the Government's agenda on welfare,” said Green MP Sue Bradford.
Today’s response from the Minister that access to allowances are changing is a significant revelation. New Zealanders who need help from the state in these difficult economic times may find accessing help is more difficult, and could be subject to restrictive conditions.
While the Minister continued to assert that National will not cut core benefits in this term of Government, they will be continuing to restrict access and entitlement to allowances and benefits such as the Training Incentive Allowance, the Independent Youth Benefit, and emergency Special Needs Grants, Ms Bradford said.
“The Minister has confirmed, for example, that the Limited Service Volunteer (LSV) scheme for 18 to 24-year-olds will now be subject to full worktesting, that means in effect it will become compulsory,” Ms Bradford said.
“If young people don’t take a place on LSV when one is offered, they will not get their benefit.
“This is a really backward, punitive step.”
Young workers who are forced on to LSV feel that they are being punished simply for the 'crime' of being unemployed, Ms Bradford said.
“Military training is fine for volunteers, but when unemployed people are required to do it against their will, it becomes a form of punishment.
“I do not think the Army will be particularly pleased, either, to have to take on LSV recruits who are not volunteers,” said Ms Bradford.
The Minister also indicated that while she is not 'auditing' emergency Special Needs Grants, she is 'reviewing' them.
“I call on the Minister to come clean on what the Government's full plans are in relation to welfare,” Ms Bradford said.
“At the moment we seem to have a rolling maul of piecemeal changes all geared to making the system tougher.
“Unless the Government is prepared to honestly and openly reveal its welfare reform plans, it's obvious that they are actually engaging in malevolent restructuring by stealth.”