New Zealanders want a welfare system we can be proud of. The system must support people who genuinely can’t support themselves, but those who can work should be available for work and actively looking. Better resources and support to help more people off welfare dependency and into work is a clear priority. The system has failed too many New Zealanders by creating dependence and the Ministry of Social Development is moving towards a more active approach that will see greater support in helping more people off welfare and into work.
Young people are a clear priority within welfare reform. We know that those who go on welfare young tend to stay longer than others and have poorer opportunities as a result. Of real concern are the 16 and 17 year olds who become disengaged from education, employment and training and who are on a collision course with the adult welfare system.
Teen parents also stay longer on benefits than those who become parents at an older age. On average, a teen mother will spend more than seven of the next 10 years on the Domestic Purposes Benefit.
The welfare system has allowed very young people and teen parents to gain access to a benefit, with very little support. We will not continue to fail these young people by handing them a welfare cheque and leaving them to their own devices.
The Ministry of Social Development is engaging with youth service providers who will work with these vulnerable young people in a very new way. Whether or not they receive a benefit, those 16 and 17 year olds and 16–18 year old teen parents at risk of going on or remaining on welfare long term will receive wrap-around support.
Sole parents will also receive much greater support to move into work, as previously this was a group that attracted little work expectation or assistance.
The integrity of the welfare system must be protected and the Ministry of Social Development will continue to improve systems to prevent fraud and abuse of the benefit system. This includes better, faster data matching and getting tougher on those who do abuse the welfare system which is there to support those in genuine need.
These changes are about greater expectations to ensure more New Zealanders participate fully in our economy and society. We are rebalancing the incentives and obligations and ensuring the welfare system is fair to those who use it and those who pay for it.
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