Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett has hit back at claims she pulled up the ladder behind her by removing welfare that she benefited from as a solo mother.

In a Facebook Live Q&A with Herald Focus tonight, Bennett was asked if solo parents had the same welfare support available as she did when she was on the Domestic Purposes Benefit in the 1990s.

She said an independent analysis had found that "sole parents are better off now than I was then".

"I know it suits people to be rewriting my history as they want to, but it's actually not factually correct."

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Climate change, workplace drug testing and maternity leave were among the questions asked of her, but the plight of beneficiaries seemed to strike a chord.

One audience questioner said she had "pulled up the ladder" and was now compelling
single mothers to go out to work in low paid jobs.

Ethan Edmonds accused her of "[taking] away our social support when you greatly benefited from it yourself" while Treena Kahaki asked if Bennett thought she could have
reached her current position on the benefits that are now available.

Bennett told Focus' Tristram Clayton she changed the rules to get more parents into work because she didn't want to see women and their kids "stuck on the benefit for decades".

"We've got 60,000 fewer kids growing up in a welfare dependent home than we had 5-6 years ago. That is a win for those kids and it's a win for those mums.

"We had mums that were sitting for decades on welfare, feeling useless, feeling like they didn't have anything worthwhile to actually give and do, and now they're actually getting ahead," she said.

"If they have to be angry with someone, be angry with me - I can take it. I'm absolutely proud that we've got fewer people on welfare, and I think they've got better lives for it."

Climate change, workplace drug testing and maternity leave were among other questions put to Bennett, but the plight of solo parents on benefits seemed to strike a chord with those watching on social media.

Ethan Edmonds accused her of "[taking] away our social support when you greatly benefited from it yourself" while Treena Kahaki asked if Bennett thought she could have reached her current position on the benefits that are now available.

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett takes part in a live Q+A with NZME Focus presenter Tristram Clayton. Photo/Dean Purcell
Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett takes part in a live Q+A with NZME Focus presenter Tristram Clayton. Photo/Dean Purcell

Bennett disagreed with Clayton's suggestion that beneficiaries could not get an education because they were being forced out to work in menial jobs, saying more single parents are now studying than back then and there is extra assistance available.

"I get that some people want to be angry with me because, you know, this Tory woman that's done it is now turning round and saying I want to get you off benefit and I'm going to make it that you have to look for work or go into education or training," she said.

"Sorry guys, that is what I'm saying. Because it's a damn sight better off welfare, it's a damn sight better for you and your kids. I think you're worth more than living just on welfare."

Bennett was also asked why National has committed to 22 weeks of paid maternity leave, given Prime Minister Bill English vetoed the increase last year when he was Finance Minister.

She didn't answer that question, but she did offer hope that National would eventually match Labour's offer of 26 weeks' paid leave, saying she was sure it would happen "at some stage" - but the party preferred to make incremental change.

The issue of drug testing in the workplace catching marijuana users but letting meth users escape scrutiny was also raised.

Bennett agreed it was a problem though she said drug testing was an issue for employers.

She did not want young people to think recreational weed was an option.

"I'm always open to having the conversation...but I would have major concerns about it being legalised."