Welfare overhaul: Advocates call for complete scrapping of sanctions

Welfare overhaul: Advocates call for complete scrapping of sanctions
Photo credit: Newshub.

Beneficiary advocates are calling on the Government to scrap sanctions entirely.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern indicated an overhaul of the welfare system is "imminent".

The overhaul was promised to the Green Party as part of its confidence and supply arrangement with the Government.

The agreement promises to "overhaul the welfare system, ensure access to entitlements, remove excessive sanctions and review Working for Families".

But the changes promised to the Greens don't quite go far enough for beneficiary advocates.

Auckland Action Against Poverty coordinator Ricardo Menendez March told Newshub he wants to see an end to all sanctions, including the 13-week stand down for beneficiaries who don't take a job offered to them.

"Unfortunately, in their agreement with Labour, they only got the agreement to remove sanctions they believe are excessive. That's a pretty vague definition."

But acting leader of the Opposition Paula Bennett told Newshub New Zealand has one of the best welfare systems in the world, and said sanctions are working.

"There's a whole lot of hard-working New Zealanders out there that are paying their taxes. What they expect from people on a benefit is that if they can work they should be," Ms Bennett said.

"That means staying drug-free, turning up for interviews and putting your best foot forward - and if you're not doing that, then maybe there should be sanctions."

"I support sanctions. I put more in place, because I think there should be expectations on people who are on welfare."

During her weekly post-Cabinet press conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there has been too strong a focus on reducing benefit numbers.

"Of course we want people in work, we want people who are seeking work to be able to find work - but I think it's tipped over into a space where it's actually denying people who need help the help they need," Ms Ardern said.

An announcement on sanctions is expected within the next few weeks.

Newshub.

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