Carmel Sepuloni defends not boosting benefits

Carmel Sepuloni has defended the Government's decision not to implement the Welfare Expert Advisory Group's (WEAG) advice to massively increase benefits.

The WEAG report, issued in May, contained 42 recommendations to improve welfare in New Zealand - including increasing benefit levels by up to 47 percent.

Only three were adopted - and the group's recommendation to push benefits higher wasn't one of them.

Appearing on Newshub Nation on Saturday, host Simon Shepherd asked the Social Development Minister if she thought people were receiving enough benefits from the Government to "live with dignity".

Sepuloni replied that benefits were now indexed to wages, but asked if it "will ever be enough?"

"Many of the initiatives that we've put into place through the Families Package and through this year's Budget have actually resulted in more money in people's pockets," she told Shepherd.

"We never said everything was going to be able to be done in one year or even one term. There are decades of neglect here, and we are in the process of going through that transformational change."

Shepherd pointed out the increase in benefits has been an "incremental" hike of around 2-3 percent. However Sepuloni describes this as "actually significant".

"Wages have gone up faster than CPI, and so it's one of those enduring changes that I've spoken about publicly before," she says.

"Any changes that we make - if we want to be transformational - have to be enduring, have to be things that last, and that is one of those enduring changes, I do believe."

Carmel Sepuloni on Newshub Nation.
Carmel Sepuloni on Newshub Nation. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

Welfare: 'Phase two' of overhaul approaches

Earlier in the year, Sepuloni said more of the WEAG's recommendations would be considered in 'phase two' of the Government's overhaul of the welfare system.

However Sepuloni wouldn't discuss with Newshub Nation what might come out of next year's Budget, or if she's put her hand up for a "fair share" of the Government's $7.5 billion surplus.

"I can't pre-empt what may come of next year's Budget. But our minds are turned to making sure that we respond to the WEAG recommendations and that the WEAG recommendations, keeping in mind, are part of our overhaul," she told Shepherd.

"I'm not going to say what I have asked for or what I haven't, Simon. But, absolutely, our minds are turned to how we can respond to the needs of New Zealanders that are going through the welfare system, low- to middle-income New Zealanders."