Tauranga woman on DPB for 32 years

By Genevieve Helliwell

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A Tauranga beneficiary has been receiving Government handouts for more than three decades.

Figures released exclusively to the Bay of Plenty Times reveal a Tauranga woman has received a Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB) for 32 years. She has been getting a benefit longer than anyone else in Tauranga.

The information, obtained under the Official Information Act, reveals as of December 31 last year that the woman was one of 653 working-age (18-64 years) Tauranga clients who received a benefit for longer than 15 years.

National MP Simon Bridges said 32 years on a benefit sounded "a few years too many" but because the woman was unwell and exempt from working he believed it was fair for her to be on a benefit for so long.

"We are a compassionate and exceptionally fair country so we do want to help people for all sorts of reasons who can't work legitimately," he said.

"The basic principle is if a person can work then they should ... but it needs to be fair to the taxpayers too."

The base rate for a sole parent on DPB was $278.04 (after tax) per week. The Tauranga woman had two dependent children so was entitled to additional assistance each week.

At the end of last year, 10,087 people were receiving a benefit in Tauranga. They were registered clients at Work and Income Services in Tauranga, Greerton and Mount Maunganui. The figure was lower than in the three previous years - 10,130 in 2011, 10,233 in 2010 and 10,184 in 2009.

Labour spokeswoman for social development Jacinda Ardern said the Government had done nothing to address the challenges people faced when coming off a benefit and help them back into the workforce, which could be a factor in why these figures continued to remain high.

The longest a Tauranga client had been on an unemployment benefit was three years.

Work and Income deputy chief executive Debbie Power said the man had regular appointments with Work and Income and was "actively seeking employment" that involved painting or forklift driving. Ms Ardern said three years was "an unusually long time" to be on such a benefit and it reflected the poor job market.

Meanwhile, Mr Bridges had expected the figure to be higher: "I'm reasonably [confident] about jobs in the next couple of years. I think [there is] going to be a lot more opportunities coming New Zealand's way and I'm feeling very optimistic for the country."

Last year the number on the DPB, unemployment and Invalids Benefit decreased and the number on the Sickness Benefit increased by 17 per cent.

Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett said the National-led Government's recession-related programmes had been successful in connecting people to the workforce, but those who needed a benefit could get one "and rightly so".

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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