National promises welfare fraud crack down

By Amelia Romanos

Prime Minister John Key says further welfare reforms will prevent people from getting a 'a free ride'. Photo / Greg Bowker
Prime Minister John Key says further welfare reforms will prevent people from getting a 'a free ride'. Photo / Greg Bowker

National is promising to crack down on welfare fraud, with plans to target those who lie about their relationships and benefit recipients on drugs or on the run from police.

Prime Minister John Key today announced further welfare reforms aimed at preventing people from getting a "a free ride''.

Mr Key said up to 12 per cent of those who received benefits in the last year were not entitled to them, and more needed to be done to safeguard taxpayer money.

National would strengthen the authorities' investigative powers by funding a new team of fraud specialists, and would review legislation with a focus on making it easier to prosecute people who abused the welfare system, Mr Key said.

"In particular, we will review the rules around relationship fraud, and make clearer the rules around when benefit recipients need to let Work and Income know about any relationships they are in.''

Jobseekers who did not apply for a job because they were asked to take a drug test, or who failed pre-employment drug tests, would face having their benefit cancelled, as would benefit recipients on the run from the police.

In the case of those caught up in crime, police would advise Work and Income when someone failed to appear on a warrant and evaded subsequent attempts by police to contact them. The beneficiary would then receive a written warning their benefit would be suspended in seven days time.

Beneficiaries with children in such a situation would continue to receive 50 per cent of their benefit until they supplied evidence to show the warrant had been cleared.

Mr Key said National would also extend data-matching processes with other Government agencies to help catch fraudsters sooner, and would enable authorities to recover money by selling such fraudsters' assets.

Labour leader Phil Goff agreed there was a problem with welfare fraud, but said it was a side issue to a wider problem of unemployment.

The people National was targeting with its plan accounted for a small section of those on benefits, Mr Goff said.

"The best form of welfare reform is to get the jobs that we can get people into.

"Most people that I talk to who are out of work desperately want to support their families, want to stand on their own feet, but the jobs have disappeared and the skill training opportunities have been cut.''

- APNZ

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