Beneficiary numbers are down in Rotorua but a budget adviser says those coming off benefits aren't necessarily moving into work.

Ministry of Social Development figures show 7406 Rotorua people were on benefits at the end of December.

The figure was down 361 on the previous year and down 277 on December 2013.

Rotorua Salvation Army community ministries manager and budget adviser Shelly Fischer suggested benefit cuts had contributed to the decline.


She'd heard of people having their benefits cut after failing to provide medical certificates or attend seminars.

Both employed and unemployed people had increasingly been seeking assistance from the service during the past few years, Ms Fischer said.

She said workers who earned just above Work and Income's benefit threshhold didn't qualify for any assistance and found it hard to save.

That meant when something unexpected happened they had no funds to cover it and received no assistance.

Beneficiaries were entitled to recoverable assistance, which was like an interest-free loan from Work and Income, when the unexpected occurred.

However, workers had to borrow the money from other sources and pay interest.

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Bay of Plenty Regional Commissioner for Social Development, Mike Bryant, said on average, 900 people moved off benefits into work each month in the Bay of Plenty.

"People on benefits with work obligations are required to be actively looking for and available for work. This includes attending work seminars."

He said when scheduling appointments, notice was given to allow time to make travel and childcare arrangements.

Clients in receipt of Job Seeker Support and who have a medical deferral have 28 days to obtain a subsequent medical certificate. The client is sent a letter two weeks before expiry telling them what they need to do.

He said when people moved off a benefit and into work, they could still be eligible for other forms of financial assistance such as Temporary Additional Support, Accommodation Supplement and childcare assistance.

"We're here to help. We encourage anyone who needs help with immediate and essential costs to get in touch with us."

Rotorua People's Union spokesman Paul Blair said the National Government had sworn to push 10,000 people off the benefit every year for 10 years.

"Unfortunately these policies and their implementation around the country have started to bite in, bed down and take a real devastating effect.

"The application regime has become so onerous that many people, young people in particular, are 'couch surfing', living rough and living off others rather than opting to face the humiliation of jumping through the same hoops over and over again like trained seals," Mr Blair said.

"The Government can point to falling beneficiary numbers but they cannot show us that these people have gone into work."