The government is keen to end the ‘nanny state syndrome’ and encourage all able people to be gainfully employed in order to lift productivity level.
The National-led government will introduce welfare reform, in terms of the promise made to the people as a part of its election campaign, Prime Minister John Key said.
“Welfare reform is a very high priority for the government,” he said, addressing a meeting of the Waitakere Business Club in West Auckland on January 26, 2012.
He said one in eight persons in the 18-64 age group enjoyed some type of benefit and that about 50% of such persons had spent at least five years on a benefit during the past ten years.
“That is not only a poor position for beneficiaries themselves to be in; it is also not good for their children, for the society or for taxpayers. We are therefore moving quickly this year to get our welfare reform programme underway,” he said.
Mr Key said his government would shortly introduce to Parliament a Bill to enact youth reforms, targeting young people who are at the risk of becoming long-term welfare dependents.
The government will also introduce another bill later in the year to usher in a number of other changes.
Mr Key said the government would create new benefit categories, which would be need based. Those going on benefit would have to prove their inability to work.
The new system will allow for more people currently on benefit to be available to take up employment, he said.
“At the same time we will do more to help beneficiaries into work through services like childcare, training, workplace support, and access to health and disability support.”
Mr Key said the health ministry would be engaged in improving the current systems and procedures.
“We have a busy agenda in health. We are working with local primary care networks throughout the country to provide free after-hours GP visits to children less than six years of age. More people will get elective surgery,” he said.
According to Mr Key, the waiting time for most cancer patients first specialist appointments, diagnostic tests and elective surgery would be reduced.
“The waiting time in emergency departments would also be reduced,” he said.
“New Zealanders rightly expect a world-class health service, an education system that delivers for every child, a strong and effective justice system and social services that protect our most vulnerable and provide children from all walks of life with the opportunities they need to succeed.”
The appointment of Hekia Parata as education minister in the newly constituted cabinet signalled the changes that Mr Key desired in lifting education standards and addressing the problem of under-performing students.
While the experiment of ‘Charter Schools’ would set the agenda for future reforms in education (Indian Newslink, December 15, 2011), Mr Key’s immediate task is to raise achievement, in particular for those groups of students who have historically under-performed.
“We are strengthening performance measurement and accountability in schools, and we will be investing $1 billion of the proceeds from mixed ownership in modernising New Zealand schools. We must ensure that students achieve well because they are future workforce and it is important for New Zealand,” he said.
Mr Key had directed the concerned ministers to put in place systems and procedures for delivery of better public services for families and businesses.
He said his government would introduce legislation to strengthen sentencing, parole and bail laws.
“We will be making it harder for those accused of the most serious offences to get bail and we are increasing the penalties for child pornography. These are all examples of individual initiatives we have underway in different areas,” he said.
Mr Key said that he was serious about better organisation of public services.
“The state sector as a whole could do much better at delivering value-for-money, and it could do much better at achieving results, particularly in areas that cut across multiple departments, and which have proved difficult to get traction on over many years,” he said.