Bennett, King debate welfare

National and Labour have agreed on one thing: work is the answer to getting people off benefits.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett and Labour's social policy spokeswoman Annette King went head to head in a televised debate but it was not the fiery exchange that was expected.

TV One's Close Up host Mark Sainsbury asked the pair how they planned to tackle rising poverty and improving the welfare system.

Both women agreed training and support were key to dealing with the number of people on benefits, which stands at 327,000.

The aim was to create a "fair system'' that helped people gain employment and independence, said Ms Bennett.

"We think the best plan is jobs. Matching skills and training so people can go into jobs. I believe in them - their ability to find work and their ability to make a difference,'' she said.

Ms King said Labour could get people off benefits through "working with them to identify the skills they need and work out a plan that gets them out of poverty''.

The number of families living in poverty was "unfinished business'' for Labour and she would be announcing a policy next week for children that addressed the issue, she said.


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