Thirteen of the 20 highest-paid beneficiaries and almost one-third of those who get more than $1000 a week from the state are looking after the children of other people.

The highest paid is a single person on the East Coast, who gets $1720 a week, mostly in orphans and unsupported children's benefits to care for nine children.

The second is a married Northland person, getting $1700 a week to care for 10 children, most from other parents.

A table listing details of the 323 beneficiaries being paid more than $1000, provided by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, shows on average they have five children

Ninety-seven were looking after other children as extended family or foster parents.

The third-highest payment went to grandparents caring for eight children, including those of their son, from whom they had not heard since he left his children with them and went to Australia.

The grandfather was also being paid the invalids benefit.

Ms Bennett ordered the overview of the cases of those who got more than $1000 a week from the state in June, and requested each case be reviewed to ensure the payments were appropriate.

Six of the top 50 had benefits reduced after the review, usually because a child had left their care or extra work cash was coming in.

Only one of the top 50 had since gone off the domestic purposes benefit into fulltime work, although several were in training or study.

Officials had recommended Ms Bennett not release the table in case people could be identified.

Ms Bennett told them to remove any identifying details rather than withhold the information entirely.

"As long as people's privacy was protected, the welfare system should be open and transparent," she said.

"This is taxpayers' money and they have a right to see where it is going."

Ms Bennett said the table gave a real-life picture of why some received high amounts in benefits.

"Some are looking after a number of children who would be in state care otherwise. One is looking after seven of her siblings. In cases like that, they're not doing it for money, it's to keep a family together."

She said the top cases would remain under constant monitoring.

BIG CHEQUES

$1702 a week - Northland man, married, caring for 10 children including some not his own. Case notes say he did not attend a scheduled meeting and was not meeting his job search obligations.

$1574 - married grandfather on invalids benefit caring for eight children, including those of his son, who left the children and went to Australia. Grandfather has not heard from him since. One of the children has returned to its mother.

$1461 - Wellington single mother with six children on DPB. Finishing BA at university and wanted to work in IT when course finished last month.