Claire Trevett

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

Budget 2014: Beneficiaries left out

Photo / APN
Photo / APN

While young working families got treats in the Budget, there was nothing extra for beneficiaries' pockets - the key welfare announcement was an extra $25 million a year to help get beneficiaries back into work.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the $100 million funding package over four year would help provide 8,000 places in job and work-readiness programmes, as well as work more intensively with those with complex needs.

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The extra funding was on top of the $187 million in last year's Budget aimed at driving the welfare reforms through. Ms Bennett said those reforms meant benefit payments were now $320 million less than forecast in 2011. Under the reforms, more beneficiaries are work-tested and face more obligations to return to work or risk having their benefits cut.

The most controversial change was for sole parents to return to work when their youngest child was school age.

Ms Bennett said the welfare reforms meant there were now 15,000 fewer people on benefits and there were 29,500 fewer children living in benefit-dependent homes than two years ago.

Vulnerable children

A $33.2 million package of funding will be used for the Childrens' Action Plan, set up by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett to address child abuse and neglect.

Bill English - return to surplus:

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The package includes $16.4 million for new services and greater monitoring of children considered to be at risk of abuse or neglect. A further $13.7 million will go to Child, Youth and Family to better support children in state care and those with high needs.

The Budget also included funding for the Ministry of Social Development's new role in managing state house tenants' housing needs, including undertaking 'tenancy reviews' and shifting tenants into other housing if they no longer meet the criteria for a state house.

The new 'tenancy reviews' will begin in July and the Ministry of Social Development was given $8 million for a fund to help state house tenants move into alternative housing (such as by paying a bond or moving costs.)

The department got about $81 million from the proceeds of the asset sales in the Future Investment Fund to set up its systems for its new responsibility of conducting those reviews, doing housing assessments, and managing social housing providers. A further $30 million has gone to the social housing fund, which provides grants to increase the size of the social housing stock.

Herald economics editor Brian Fallow's Budget 2014 analysis:

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Whanau Ora Minister Tariana Turia said she was pleased with the initiatives for low income families which would benefit Maori. They ranged from free doctors' visits for under 13s, to an expansion of the rheumatic fever programme to include free drop-in clinics for 90,000 more children, as well as expanding the healthy homes initiative.

Ms Turia also secured a further $15 million over three years to fund those who work with families under the Whanau Ora programme she set up. She said the programme had so far worked with 6,000 families - more than 45, 000 individuals. The Budget also includes a $10 million contestable fund to develop Maori sports.

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$500m to extend paid parental leave
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Police budget frozen
$25m to fight kauri dieback
Fees slashed for targeted tertiary courses

Social development

• $100 million to get beneficiaries back into work.
• $33.2 million for work with vulnerable children at risk of abuse or neglect.
• $81 million to manage state house portfolio, including new 'tenancy reviews.'
• $15 million for Whanau Ora 'navigators' working with low income families.
• $10 million contestable fund for Maori sporting and cultural activities.

- NZ Herald

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