Two good moves from government today:
First Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has announced that people with outstanding arrest warrants will no longer receive a benefit while evading Police.
“Of the approximately 15,000 people with a current arrest warrant, around 8,200 are on benefits,” says Mrs Bennett.
“If someone has an unresolved arrest warrant we will stop their benefit until they do the right thing and come forward to the authorities.”
“In exceptional circumstances where someone poses a danger to the public, their benefit can be stopped immediately at the request of the Police Commissioner,” says Mrs Bennett.
Around 58 per cent of people clear their arrest warrants within 28 days. Those who don’t will be given 10 days to clear or challenge the warrant before their benefit is stopped, or reduced by fifty per cent if they have dependent children.
People will still be able to apply for hardship assistance for themselves and their children.
“Most people clear their warrants within a month, so 38 days is a reasonable amount of time to step forward and straighten things out,” says Mrs Bennett.
“Once someone has come forward their benefit can be reinstated but there will be clear consequences for people who continually refuse to acknowledge or resolve arrest warrants.”
The only question about this is:why it has taken so long to do the sensible thing?
the welfare system wasn’t designed to support people who are evading Police.
The second good news is that the government is considering reducing fees for passport applications.
Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain says lower passport fees are being considered as the Government moves to enable online passport applications.
“Online applications have been trialled successfully and will be available to the public by the end of the year. This will streamline the process of applying for a passport and reduce costs, providing the opportunity to look at the level of fees,” says Mr Tremain.
“Passport fees are set at cost recovery level, currently $153.30 for a standard adult passport. Revenue from passports is only spent on passports. The change to a five-year passport has increased the volume of renewals, and a growing surplus has built up in the account, meaning that there is scope to reduce fees.
“Changing passport fees would require a change to regulations. I have asked officials to report back to me on different options for fee reductions, including a lower fee for online applications to incentivise applicants to move online.
“This will contribute significantly to the Government’s Better Public Services Result 10: That New Zealanders can complete their transactions easily with government in a digital environment. This aims to have 70% uptake of digital and online services for key transactions by 2017, including passport applications.
“Passports consistently rate among the very top public services in the Kiwis Count figures produced by the State Services Commission. This is an opportunity to return some savings to passport holders and provide even better public services at a lower cost.”
It’s only under consideration at the moment but such a move would be very welcome.
Applications should be charged on a cost-recovery basis and if the department is recovering more than it costs a reduction in charges is the logical action.
Five years come around very quickly and many people have to renew their passport some time before the old one expires.
Several countries require visitors to have a passport valid for up to six months before they are granted entry. That means you’re paying for a five-year passport which might be able to be used for only four and half years which makes it even more expensive.