Health and disability advocates hit out at National's 'unfair' new welfare policy

The National Party's leader Christopher Luxon has confirmed Jobseeker beneficiaries with a disability or a health problem could face sanctions under National's plan to get young people off welfare.

It's drawn criticism from one of New Zealand's disabled chief executives.

Workbridge CEO Jonathan Mosen understands the barriers disabled people face in finding work.

"There are so many misconceptions out there about what disabled people are capable of that it can be really difficult to break through those misperceptions so that disabled people can find work in the first place," Mosen said.

But under a National Government young disabled beneficiaries could face benefit cuts.

"Yes, if they refuse to participate in their job plan, we will employ the sanctions," Luxon said.

"It's not that we have a lot of disabled people sitting around twiddling their thumbs. They're desperate to work," Mosen said. 

National's policy would apply to under 25-year-olds who've been receiving the Jobseeker benefit for over a year.

They'd be given a job coach to help them find work and those who fail to follow their coach's plan would face sanctions including benefit reductions. While those that do find employment for at least 12 months would get a $1000 bonus.

"Thirteen-thousand young people have been on a benefit - on the Jobseeker benefit - for over a year," Luxon said.

But those 13,000 Jobseeker beneficiaries Luxon speaks of include people with a health condition or a disability. 

Official data shows only about 8700 18 to 24-year-olds on the Jobseeker benefit for over a year are actually considered "work ready".

"What we really want them to be able to do is work with their job coach," Luxon said. "The next piece is if you can work and you're able to work or you're on a pathway to work, we will have sanctions if you don't participate."

"I don't think it's fair to sanction disabled people for other people's misperceptions," Mosen said.

In a statement, Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said sanctioning people with disabilities or serious illnesses if they can’t work is "unkind". 

She said instead of penalising sick and disabled people, the Government should focus on supporting them into work if they can.

It's a view shared by the chair of Te Puea Marae Hurimoana Dennis.

"I think it's a little naive to have such an approach, particularly for those who are Māori. The sick and disabled, there are things beyond their control, so they should not be sanctioned in any way," Dennis said.

A National Party policy that will struggle to find votes from the disabled and health-compromised.