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Bradford Questions Bennett's Real Agenda

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Sue Bradford
Sue Bradford

Paula Bennett's latest moves on benefits indicate National may be softening up New Zealand for cutbacks on benefit amounts and access, Green Party Social Development Spokesperson Sue Bradford said today.

"Reports this morning that Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is mounting two audits of benefits - one about high payments and the other about special needs grants - ring alarm bells for those of us who remember National's huge cuts to benefits back in 1991.

"It's vital the benefit system is fair. But these latest moves seem a deliberate bid to undermine peoples' confidence in the benefit system and to foster more public attacks on beneficiaries." Ms Bennett has asked her department to audit the entitlements of some beneficiaries.

"When looking at beneficiaries on comparatively high incomes, factors such as the number of children, sickness and disability in the family, and accommodation costs must be taken into account, Ms Bradford said.

"On top of that, Ms Bennett is consistently using childcare subsidies to bolster the amount of income a beneficiary apparently gets, even though such subsidies are directly paid to the childcare centre." Ms Bennett is also looking into the number of emergency special needs grants being allocated by Work and Income, on the back of 58,000 applications in July.

The number of people trying to access assistance was growing as the recession deepened, and more and more people - even those on previously high incomes - found themselves struggling to survive, Ms Bradford said. "If Ms Bennett looked at history she would discover that the cutting of benefits in 1991 and the removal by Labour of the discretionary Special Benefit are two of the biggest factors in people having to apply for emergency assistance.

"For most people the core benefit is simply not enough to cover their daily and weekly living costs. "To focus on a very small number of beneficiaries who have a comparatively high entitlement deliberately distracts from the fact that in most cases benefits are too low for survival."

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