National's benefit crackdown would toughen up on beneficiaries

National's getting even tougher on beneficiaries - in particular, the young ones who have been on the unemployment benefit for six months.

If they refuse drug rehabilitation, training or work experience, their benefits will be chopped by half.

"They need to take some personal responsibility," National leader Bill English said at the policy announcement.

Labour's not impressed and advocates say it's vote-grabbing beneficiary bashing.

Mr English wants new obligations and sanctions for the 16,000 young beneficiaries he claims are at risk of becoming welfare dependent.

"The longer you're on, the longer you'll stay," Mr English said.

His plan works like this: If you're under 25, don't have a child, and have been on a job seeker's benefit for more than six months, you'll have to take up work experience or training that's offered to you.

Or if you have a drug problem, you'll have to get clean.

Otherwise benefit payments will be halved after four weeks, and eventually cut altogether.

"We know that sanctions are an effective tool," Mr English said.

He wants this to begin in July next year but Labour's Jacinda Ardern says not if she wins the election.

"There has long been a sanctions regime in place. The idea to increase it for a particular group is not justified," she said.

Auckland's Action Against Poverty group agrees, calling it "beneficiary bashing".

"The attitude to beneficiaries to treat them with utter contempt and to use them as a political football is utterly deplorable," spokesperson Alastair Russell told Newshub.

While there's bound to be critics, there's an old rule in politics that National's never lost any votes by taking on beneficiaries.