Benefit receivers up more than 15,000 on the same time in 2018

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni.
Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni. Photo credit: Getty

The number of people receiving a main benefit at the end of September this year has risen by over 15,000 compared to the same time in 2018. 

The Ministry of Social Development's website says the increase was mostly driven by a 10.2 percent increase in the number of people receiving Jobseeker Support. 

It increased from 129,643 in September 2018 to 142,932 the same time this year. 

Jobseeker Support is for people who can usually look for or prepare for work.

It also includes people who can only work part-time or cannot look for work because they have a health condition, injury, or disability.

The number of working-age people receiving a main benefit - those aged 18-64 - was also up 5.3 percent on the same time last year from 284,315 to 299,472.

National leader Simon Bridges said the numbers are "appalling".

"The additional number of beneficiaries in just three months is the same as the population of Ngaruawahia," he told Newshub.

"These people and their children will lead worse lives because of this. This is not kindness. And it's not fair on hardworking taxpayers."

Auckland Action Against Poverty's Ricardo Menendez said "what is appalling" is that because of the high costs of living there is a "record number of people needing to go to Work and Income for assistance".

Sole Parent Support benefits were also up 1.9 percent from 58,620 to 59,715.

Looking at it over five years, there were 299,472 working-age people in receipt of a main benefit as at the end of September 2019, an increase of 1.8 percent compared to September 2014.

The ministry's figures show the number of people receiving a benefit trended downwards in 2017, but then began to pick up in 2018.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni pointed to low unemployment of 3.9 percent.

"We said we would provide assistance to those who need it and this increase demonstrates that we are," the minister said in a statement to Newshub.

She also pointed to "positive signs" such as a 13 percent increase in people leaving the benefit to go into work in the past year, with 2100 work cancellations from Jobseeker Support.

"We want to ensure everyone who is able is earning, learning, caring or volunteering - and our welfare system has a key role to play in that," Sepuloni said.

"With historically low rates of unemployment, it's more important than ever to help people who aren't working to upskill, so they can fill the roles available in our businesses."