Welfare reforms will mean more drug addicts,
beneficiaries with the same small chance of employment and
parents being displaced from their child's education, a Dunedin
social service chief executive says.
The Social Security (benefit categories and work focus)
Amendment Bill is scheduled to become law in July this year.
The Methodist Mission chief executive Laura Black said the
proposed reforms included compulsory drug testing but if
beneficiaries claimed to be an addict and tested positive
they would be exempt from having their benefit cut.
''We are going to have an awful lot more people claiming that
they are an addict, as a way of saving themselves from the
However, drug and addiction services would not receive any
extra funding to cope, Ms Black said.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said her ministry
was working on how to distinguish between recreational and
dependent drug users and access to drug treatment services
for drug-dependent beneficiaries.
''I'm advised that with a good assessment, clinicians can
determine whether people are dependent on drugs or actually
overstating the situation. If someone is drug-dependent, they
will be supported to access drug treatment.''
Ms Black said the Bill did not change the likelihood of a
beneficiary finding work, because there were fewer jobs
available than beneficiaries.
''What actually changes? The answer is not a lot,'' Ms Black
Ms Bennett said the purpose of the Bill was to get
beneficiaries available and looking for work and it was
reasonable to expect people on welfare to be actively looking
for a job.
''And if they genuinely can't find a job, they won't be
penalised. In the last year, more than 81,000 people went off
welfare and into work, so while I accept there aren't enough
jobs for everyone, thousands of people are finding work every
The reforms allowed beneficiaries to be ready for work so if
a job became available they could be employed, Ms Bennett
Ms Black said although making child care available was
''fantastic'', the proposed funding for the reform was a
couple of million dollars a year, enough to fund a couple
thousand children but the legislation would affect ''tens of
thousands of children''.
''If you're not going to fund it, why do it?'' Ms Black
Ms Bennett said the ministry provided an extra $80 million so
teen parents could have access to free child care, study and
attend budgeting and parenting courses.
And there were many support mechanisms available to help
parents with the costs of Early Childhood Education (ECE) and
transport, Ms Bennett said.
''Parents get free ECE for up to six hours per day, and up to
20 hours per week ... Over $1.4 billion of taxpayers' money
is spent on supporting under 5-year-olds in ECE.''