The number of people receiving unemployment support for more than 10 years has surged nearly 50 per cent since Labour came into Government in 2017.
The latest statistics also show the dramatic impact of Covid-19, with the total number of people on Jobseeker Support increasing 25 per cent in the year to March, by nearly 50,000 to over 200,000.
National's Social Development and Employment spokeswoman Louise Upston has called on the Government to do more to reduce long-term welfare reliance, with an increase of 26,326 more people on Jobseeker Support for more than two consecutive years between 2017 and 2021.
Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni has hit back, saying the longer-term increases are an indictment on the previous National-led government, given the increase is people who came onto benefits initially under National.
Jobseeker Support is a weekly payment that helps people until they find work.
In March 2017 10,311 people had been on Jobseeker for more than 10 years. Now there were 14,133.
The overall figures include those classed as "work ready", and those with health conditions and disability.
Broken down further those on Jobseeker for more than 10 years classed as work ready increased from 3492 in March 2017 to 5280 in March this year - more than 50 per cent.
Overall the number of people on Jobseeker support at March 2021 was 201,303 - up from 119,406 in March 2017.
This included an increase of nearly 50,000 in the past year since the Covid-19 pandemic.
There were also steady increases in those on benefits for two to 10 years - the largest jump among those on benefits for one to two years, which increased from 11,454 to 28,095 in the past four years, with about 13,000 of those in the past year during Covid-19.
Sepuloni, who has held the portfolio since 2017, said she when she took over she was "shocked at the state of our frontline services".
National was focused on "punitive and non-effective sanctions" and case managers were overloaded, unable to dedicate enough time to the early interventions required to get people back to work, Sepuloni said.
"The strong growth in people who have been on benefit longer than five years is an example of National's failure.
"These people came onto benefits during National's time at the wheel, did not get the early interventions required and were failed by the previous Government."
The Welfare Expert Advisory Group in 2019 had made recommendations about improving access to employment supports and work, which the Government had acted on, Sepuloni said.
Since then the Government had added 263 new staff to help people into work, invested $150m in Budget 2020 to help people into work, and a further $99m in work-focused case management and services in Budget 2021.
It had also invested $86m to sustain the additional frontline work-focused staff employed through Covid-19.
"This has led to a record number of people finding work last quarter - 32,200 - which included 4137 people who had been on Jobseeker Work Ready Benefit for longer than a year," Sepuloni said.
Upston said she accepted many of those at the longer end would have come on a benefit under National, but said there had also been huge growth in the number of people on benefits for one to five years.
"We get when they have been on for 10 years or more, we accept that really is challenging to help them off.
"But those who have been on for one to five years, there are no answers for it. When we were in office we had very clear focus and targets to support people coming off benefits and into employment.
"That means focused efforts, individualised, which is what social investment is about."
Upston said there was a balance between punitive measures and support.
"There are some pretty common sense things such as being drug free and if people cannot meet those there should be a consequence. I don't see it as punitive rather partnership."
Upston said there needed to be more partnership with businesses, like their policy JobStart, which would give businesses a grant of $10,000 for each new worker they employed.
There also needed to be more support for organisations in communities that were better connected with employers on the ground.
"There is not a day we don't hear businesses with skills gaps, from hospitality to retail and horticulture, they are crying out for people to do the work."