Kiwis on benefit deserve cost of living payment 'more than anyone', Paula Bennett says

Former Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett says Kiwis on benefits should be receiving the cost of living payment. 

Kiwis started receiving the payment of $116.67 - the first of three - on Monday with the second and third portions coming on the first business days of September and October. 

It works out at $350 and will go to Kiwis who earn $70,000 or less, aren't entitled to the Winter Energy Payment and meet several other criteria - roughly 2.1 million New Zealanders. 

The payment is aimed to help support Kiwis as the cost of essentials soars but doesn't include New Zealanders on a benefit. 

It comes after inflation increased a whopping 7.3 percent, the largest jump in 32 years, in the June 2022 quarter. 

Bennett told AM on Wednesday even though she doesn't agree with the Government's policy, she believes beneficiaries are the first people who should be receiving it. 

"I think they need it more than anyone. I mean we are all feeling the pinch. It doesn't matter what you are earning, you are feeling it when you go to fill up the car and when you go to buy your groceries," she told AM.

"Some of us are blessed that actually, we know that the payment is going to go through when we get to the checkout and I do, I feel like I'm really privileged. 

"Then you think about other people on such limited incomes who will be struggling so much more than you are and quite frankly my personal opinion is if anyone kind of needs a temporary payment at the moment with those exuberant costs it's those on the benefit."

Bennett was surprised the cost of living payment didn't include Kiwis on the benefits.      

"I would've thought those on benefits would've been almost the first port of call," she said. 

"I don't agree with the payment to be quite frank and I just think it costs way too much and hasn't been done properly, but if you were going to do it, wouldn't you give it to those who need it the most?" 

Former Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett. Photo credit: AM

Bennett is a former beneficiary and single mother, as well as the former Minister of Social Development. She retired from Parliament in May 2020, but during her tenure had some controversial policies regarding beneficiaries. 

She oversaw a crackdown on welfare, including requirements for single mothers to return to work or face sanctions, and sanctions for those who don't meet drug and alcohol work test requirements.

The National-led Government announced a major package of welfare reforms in 2010 aimed at solo parents, who it said should go back to work.

Bennett said that for some beneficiaries "the dream is over".

"We expect those people to be at work for at least 15 hours a week," Bennett said in 2010. 

In 2017, Bennett admitted it wasn't easy to live on the benefit.

"I don't think it was easy, and it's not easy and that was a long time ago. I don't ever think that being on a benefit was easy then and it isn't now for people," she said at the time.

Bennett's former colleague Simon Bridges accidentally referred to her as  'Paula Benefit' in 2018. 

The nickname 'Paula Benefit' - or the variation 'Pullya Benefit' - was used by some to describe Bennett during her time as Minister of Social Development.