The number of sole parents on the domestic purposes benefit dropped by 5000 last year - a drop Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is attributing partly to her new policy requiring sole parents to get jobs when their youngest child turns five.
Figures released yesterday showed there were 95,138 sole parents on the DPB at the end of 2012 - down from 100,266 the year before.
More than half of that drop happened in the last three months of the year, after the introduction of Ms Bennett's policy required sole parents to get part-time work when their youngest child turned five and fulltime work for those whose children were older than 14.
Ms Bennett said 3221 sole parents had returned to work since that came into force in October.
Ms Bennett said there was a still a lot of work to do to get overall benefit levels down - a revamp of the system next year will put extra work-testing and job hunting requirements on beneficiaries, including those on sickness and invalids' benefits.
Ms Bennett said numbers were trending downwards after soaring since 2008 when the recession was first beginning to hit. At the end of December, numbers on the unemployment benefit had dropped to 53,747 from the peak in 2010 of 67,084. Overall, there were nearly 340,000 people on benefits at the end of December 2012 - 13,600 fewer than in 2010.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said she was sceptical about whether those dropping off the benefit were going into jobs or had simply been forced off by the Government's harder line policies, including requiring those on the unemployment benefit to reapply every year.
Prime Minister John Key has held out job opportunities in Christchurch during the reconstruction as one possibility for those looking for work, but yesterday ruled out a hard-line approach of docking the dole for those who refused to relocate.
Single parents on DPB
December 2012 95,138
December 2011 100,266
Total on all types of benefit
December 2012 339,095
December 2010 352,707
On unemployment benefit
December 2012 53,747
December 2010 67,084