More than 21,000 beneficiaries have had their benefits
cut for going on unapproved overseas trips in the last nine
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has released the
first figures since new rules were introduced under which
beneficiaries who are expected to be job hunting can not
receive a benefit while overseas, unless the trip is for
compassionate or health reasons. Where travel is allowed,
benefits will only be paid for up to 28 days.
Since the rules kicked in on 15 July last year, about 21,000
people have had their benefits cut for taking overseas trips
- adding up to $10.5 million.
The figure includes about 1,750 people who went on more than
one trip - 191 went on three trips during that period. About
11,200 were on the Jobseekers benefit while 4,800 were single
parents. Ms Bennett said the figures were "staggering."
"The new rules recognise beneficiaries should be ready and
available for work - not prioritising travel. Every day we
hear stories of how people can not live on the benefit. Today
you're hearing that literally thousands can not only live on
it but can afford to travel overseas as well."
The rule is monitored by information sharing between Customs
and the Ministry of Social Development. Almost 5000 people
have also had their benefits cut off completely because they
had not contacted Work and Income within eight weeks of
leaving the country.
Under the rules, beneficiaries in the 'Job Seeker' category
can only go overseas if it is for compassionate or health
reasons. Beneficiaries who do not have work obligations, such
as single parents with very young children, can go overseas
for up to 28 days a year without their benefit being
If Work and Income has not been told of a proposed overseas
trip, that person's benefit will be will be stopped
- Claire Trevett of the New Zealand Herald