Long-term welfare dependency is placing too many Kiwis in a life of limited choices – as a country, we cannot allow our young people to fall into this trap.
The Social Security (Youth Support and Work Focus) Amendment Bill was passed into law, representing the National-led Government’s next step in addressing this important issue.
We started with Future Focus changes, which introduced greater expectations and the next step will be the second phase of major welfare reforms with new benefit categories and a greater focus on work for more people on benefits.
National believes that welfare should always support those in genuine need.
But we also think that people who can work should work or be looking for employment.
Getting off welfare and into work means a better life, better opportunities and brighter future for individuals and their families.
Work is the path to higher incomes and better living standards.
Currently there are 3000 persons who are in the 16-17 age group and 16-18 year old parents on a benefit. There are also around 14,000 young people aged 16 and 17 who are classified as being not in education, employment or training and they are on a collision course with the welfare system. We are wrapping support around these young people and ensuring they get the education and training they need to be independent.
The Act introduces financial support in the form of a new Youth Payment and Young Parent Payment for 16 and 17-year-olds, and teen parents aged between 16 and 19 years. With help from dedicated Youth Service providers, money management will mean their bills are paid direct, with payment cards for living costs and a small cash in hand as allowance. The payment card cannot be used to pay for cigarettes and alcohol.
The new law also provides for greater flexibility in the hours of work for part-time and full-time work tests for beneficiaries subject to work test obligations.
It introduces work obligations and preparation for sole parents, widows, women alone and partners. For those beneficiaries who have more children while on welfare, they will have one year before previous applicable work obligations resume.
Currently, our welfare system simply pays benefits to young people and teen parents, effectively leaving them to use money as they desired.
This will now change – we will provide more support for young people and insist they be in education or training if they want to get a benefit.
The youth support changes will take effect from August and the work obligations initiatives will come into effect in October this year.
National campaigned on these changes voted by New Zealanders.
Our comprehensive reform of the welfare system will bring it into the 21st Century.
National is taking an active approach because we have greater aspirations for New Zealanders and their children, achieved through work, not welfare.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi is Member of Parliament on National List. The above article is exclusive to Indian Newslink.