About 70 protesters aged between 77 and four months marched to Social Development Minister Paula Bennett's office in Waitakere today to protest against reforms that will force many more welfare beneficiaries to look for work.

Mt Eden poet Tim Birch, 77, came because "I'm always forking out of my pension to help the poor".

Adult literacy lecturer Grant Cole, 50, carrying four-month-old baby Tama, came because the Government said it had "no money for the poor" even though it could find hundreds of millions to bail out finance and insurance companies.

"I'm sick and tired of corporates lashing out against social welfare while themselves benefiting from social welfare," he said.


Jenny MacGibbon, a 57-year-old widow, caught a bus and a train to get there from her home in Beach Haven with her daughter Sian, 27, and grandchildren Che, 4, Rhiannon, 2, and Zahn, 9 months.

Both adults have received letters saying they will have to look for work when the new work-testing regime for sole parents starts on October 15. Jenny MacGibbon's husband killed himself six years ago.

"I'm 57. There's no way I'm going to find a job," she said.

"I brought up my kids. Now I'm helping my kids with their kids."

The widow's benefit will be abolished next July when the existing seven benefit categories are reduced to three - a broad category called Jobseeker Support that will include widows and sole parents with no children under 14; Sole Parent Support for those with children under 14; and a Supported Living Payment for people with disabilities that mean they are unlikely ever to get work.

Ms Bennett's office was closed during the protest. Police said all staff had left for the day.