Beneficiaries have wings clipped

By Cassandra Mason

31 comments
As of April 21,000 Kiwis have had their benefit cut because of overseas travel.
As of April 21,000 Kiwis have had their benefit cut because of overseas travel.

Hundreds of Northland beneficiaries are having their benefits cut under welfare reforms that stop them travelling overseas .

A range of welfare reforms brought in on July 15 last year put more pressure on beneficiaries to put their obligations ahead of overseas travel.

Before the law change, people on a benefit could head overseas for up to 28 days, multiple times, without it affecting their payments.

Now most can't leave the country except under special circumstances, like attending a funeral.

All beneficiaries are now also required to let Work and Income (WINZ) know about their travel plans in advance, or their benefit is stopped on departure.

Figures released by the Ministry of Social Development show that since the changes took hold, 635 Northland benefits were suspended when their recipients failed to notify Winz about their travel.

A Northland budget advisor, who didn't want to be named, said if beneficiaries had their benefit cut for travelling overseas without letting Winz know, it was their own fault.

"Work and Income are really thorough and really good about that if [beneficiaries] let them know."

The service hadn't yet dealt with anyone who had lost their benefit for travelling, she said.

As of April this year, more than 21,000 Kiwis had their benefits cut for travelling overseas.

The largest group of suspensions were the nearly 11,200 people on job seeker benefits, followed by more than 4800 sole parents, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said at the time.

"Every day we hear stories of how people cannot live on the benefit. Today you're hearing that literally thousands can not only live on it, but can afford to travel overseas as well."

The changes have saved the country more than $10.5 million in suspended payments, she said.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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