Northland beneficiaries are requiring more help than ever before, with demand for food parcels on the rise, a budgeting worker warns.
Ministry of Social Development statistics show 17,858 Northland residents were on benefits at the end of December, 157 more than in the previous quarter, but 459 fewer than in December 2011.
Whangarei Anglican Care Trust budgeting co-ordinator Marion Moon said she wasn't aware of anyone being kicked off a benefit under new Government reforms but had worked with clients whose benefits had been reduced: "But that's usually for non-compliance - not turning up to courses and various things like that."
Clients reported it was harder to survive on a benefit now, Ms Moon said.
The trust dealt with over 800 new clients last year, and more food parcels were being provided.
"Our budgeting client numbers have increased substantially - but some of that has to do with the way Work and Income have changed it so that people who have had more than two advances or special needs grants - then they need to come to budgeting."
As of December, 339,095 people nationwide were receiving a benefit, up 5.6 per cent on the previous quarter. However, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the number on benefits was at its lowest level since 2008. Beneficiary numbers fell by nearly 12,000 year-on-year.
New Zealand's unemployment rate is 7.3 per cent - the highest since June 1999 - while Northland has the highest rate in the country at almost 10 per cent .
Work testing has been introduced for domestic purposes beneficiaries, as have new obligations and management of benefits for youth and teenage parents. Additional reforms before the social services committee simplify the benefit system from seven to three: jobseeker support, sole parent support for parents with children under 14, and supporting living payment for people significantly restricted by sickness.
The bill also requires jobseekers to be drug-free.
Benefits in Northland - December 2012
17,858 working-age (aged 18-64 years) recipients of a main benefit.
44.7 per cent male, 55.3 per cent female.
60.5 per cent Maori.
3600 working-age recipients of an unemployment benefit.
71 per cent male, 29 per cent female.
66.1 per cent Maori.
3007 working-age recipients of a sickness benefit.
3951 working-age recipients of an invalid's benefit.
6491 working-age recipients of a Domestic Purposes Benefit.