Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the latest benefit figures showing a five year low confirm New Zealand welfare numbers are back to where they were pre-global recession.
Benefit numbers have dropped five percent or nearly 15,000 to 295,320 in the past year (March 2013 – March 2014). This has resulted in 17,700 fewer children living in beneficiary households compared to March last year and a whopping 29,500 children fewer than two years ago.
“Beneficiary numbers have fallen to the lowest level since March 2009. When the Government took office in late 2008, the global financial crisis was already beginning to bite with benefit numbers increasing in the three quarters prior to and including the election,” says Mrs Bennett.
“The big success is the 10 per cent drop in sole parents and their children coming off Sole Parent Support.
“More than 8,600 sole parents have come off Sole Parent Support in the past 12 months, making up almost 60 per cent of the total reduction.
“Particularly pleasing is the 13.4 per cent decrease in young parents aged 18 on Young Parent Payments. We know that going on a benefit as teenager with children puts that person and their kids at huge risk of becoming trapped in welfare dependency.
“In fact 70 per cent of the country’s future liability welfare bill can be attributed to people who first went on benefit in their teens.
“The reductions we’re now seeing will mean fewer people on benefit in the years to come. We have more young people getting education and training through our Youth Service support which means we’re going to see healthier, more prosperous households,” says Mrs Bennett.
“Post peak recession in March 2010, beneficiaries made up 12 per cent of the working age population. This has dropped to 10.6 per cent as at the end of March.
“This Government is putting more money than ever before into the welfare system. We are supporting people earlier, being clearer in our job expectations and putting more focus on at-risk teens. All of this is making a significant difference.
“Only a few weeks ago New Zealand was judged the best country in the world to live in – our latest welfare figures show things are just getting better,” says Mrs Bennett.
Full benefit data is available at: http://www.msd.govt.nz
There are obvious financial benefits for the individuals on welfare and the country from having fewer beneficiaries and their children.
Just as important are the social outcomes which go with work rather than welfare – better health and education outcomes, less crime . . .
The decrease has been achieved by improving economic conditions and active engagement with beneficiaries to help and encourage those who could work to do so.