'Wanted' beneficiaries lose out

Northlanders who fail to clear outstanding arrest warrants could see their benefits stopped as the next stage of welfare reforms comes into effect next week.

From July 15, beneficiaries with outstanding warrants will have their benefits stopped if they fail to come forward and clear their warrant within 38 days.

Those with children will have their benefit reduced by no more than half.

National statistics show there are about 15,000 people with outstanding warrants at any one time and 8000 of those are receiving benefits.

In Northland, as at the end of May, 1062 people were wanted on warrants.

Under the new legislation people with a warrant outstanding for 28 or days or longer will be given 10 further working days to clear it.

Failing that, Work and Income will be notified and the benefit reduced by 50 per cent or stopped, until the person complies.

But if police believe a person evading arrest poses a serious danger, their benefit can be stopped immediately at the request of the Police Commissioner.

It would relate to people with outstanding warrants for serious crimes such as violence and assault, firearms charges, and people with multiple driving convictions.

The collaborative approach between police and Work and Income is seen as freeing up significant police time and resources.

Police Minister Anne Tolley welcomed the new process and said it highlighted the benefits of government agencies working more closely together to improve public safety.

"People with outstanding arrest warrants who pose a risk to the public will be tracked down by police.

"You will be found and brought before the courts."

This measure forms part of wider changes being introduced by the Government aimed at reforming and modernising New Zealand's welfare system with an active, work-based approach.

- Northern Advocate

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