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Passage of welfare reforms draws scorn

Wednesday 10 Apr 2013 9:43 a.m.

Labour's Social Development spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern (file)

Labour's Social Development spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern (file)

Labour is accusing the Government of tearing up a social contract with New Zealanders after another part of its welfare reforms was passed by parliament.

The bill that imposes new work-seeking obligations on beneficiaries and offers them more support while they look for jobs passed its third reading last night.

The Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill is the second stage of the government's restructuring of the welfare system and went through after a 61 to 59 vote.

Labour's Social Development spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern says it is punitive and there was no proof the changes would help move people off benefits.

"There has already been a dramatic increase in the use of sanctions under this government and new legislation passed last night will see those sanction used even more.

"These reforms just tear up the idea of the social contract. It's time we rebuilt our social security system," she said.

But Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says measures in the bill are balanced.

"This bill asks more people to look for work and those who can't find jobs won't be sanctioned," she said.

"But if you don't look for work you won't find it, and I think that's fair."

The law will also require job seekers to be drug-free and allows benefits to be stopped for people with outstanding arrest warrants.

Labour and the Greens strongly opposed the bill, saying the jobs don't exist and those who can't find employment will be harshly penalised.


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