Bennett accused of withholding information
Monday 24 Dec 2012 9:08 a.m.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is being accused of withholding information from the Labour Party.
Jacinda Ardern says Ms Bennett has released to the media details of the number of beneficiaries who have been given grants for air tickets so they can work in other countries, but won't give her the same figures.
Ms Ardern, Labour's social development spokeswoman, says media has reported 68 beneficiaries had their flights to Australia paid for by Work and Income while 11 others were helped to get to places as far away as Israel.
"Despite asking questions on the number of times the transition to work grant was used for tickets to Australia on December 7, the minister is yet to reply to me," she said on Monday.
Ms Ardern revealed in parliament on December 5 that beneficiaries were being given the grants for tickets and at the time Ms Bennet didn't know it was happening.
She has since issued an instruction stopping it.
Ms Ardern says it's unlikely the real figures will ever be known, because Work and Income lists airline tickets under "travel costs" in its records.
"In the last five years 500,000 people have received funds through the transition to work grant," she said.
"Paying people to travel to Israel and the UK shows just how desperate Work and Income was to keep benefit numbers down and how desperate New Zealanders were to find work."