Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Beneficiary birth control 'common sense' - Key

The package is aimed at supporting beneficiaries to get into training or work. Photo / Thinkstock
The package is aimed at supporting beneficiaries to get into training or work. Photo / Thinkstock

Prime Minister John Key has disagreed with claims that providing free long-acting contraception to beneficiaries was interfering in their reproductive lives, saying it was "pragmatic and common sense."

Social Development minister Paula Bennett has announced the Government will provide $1 million of funding for women on a benefit and their teenage daughters to get long-term reversible contraception - such as an implant.

Mr Key said the Government had subsidised contraception for years and the funding was effectively a subsidy for beneficiaries to go to the doctor.

"We are seeing young people going on the DPB very early and staying there for a long period of time. I think it is just pragmatic and common sense for the Government to be taking the steps that we are.

Ultimately if people have unplanned pregnancies and are solely dependent on the state, you the taxpayer have to pay for a long period of time for that dependency and we know the outcomes aren't terribly good."

Mr Key said while some solo parents did a good job of raising children, others did not.

"Making sure those pregnancies are planned and those young girls have choices and are well educated is quite an important step for the Government."

Labour leader David Shearer said access to contraception should be freely accessible to all people.

"There should be easier access for all women whether they are on a benefit or not."

He said welfare changes also unfairly put the burden onto women and did not factor men into the equation.

"The fathers of these children are not being called to account," he said.

He also questioned whether it was appropriate for contraceptive advice to be given by front line staff at Work and Income rather than medical professionals.

"This is really important that this is a matter between a woman and her doctor and not between a woman and case worker.

"Women could feel pressured to take contraception by their case worker."

Mr Key said he did not believe Work and Income case managers would put undue pressure on beneficiaries to take up the long-term contraceptive options, saying they would simply be made aware of the options they had.

"Any woman can reject going on it - it's not compulsory, it's totally voluntary."

He said case managers usually knew the beneficiaries well and the issues they faced.

"So we expect those case workers to be able to engage."

Mr Key said the options were all reversible but were proven to be effective contraception.

- NZ Herald

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