National to 'break cycle' and shift young people off welfare into work

updated By Kelvin McDonald
Credit / Newshub

A National government will shift young people off welfare into work, says party leader Christopher Luxon, who claims taxpayers are being failed.

“It makes no sense that with businesses crying out for workers, there are 34,000 under 25-year-olds receiving the Jobseeker benefit, an increase of 49 per cent from five years ago.

“Even more concerning, over 13,000 under 25-year-olds have been stuck on the Jobseeker benefit for a year or longer – almost twice as many as when Labour took office," Luxon, who is in Christchurch at the party’s national conference, said in a statement Sunday.

Luxon says, a National government "will not tolerate this waste of human potential, or the unfairness of taxpayers’ money being spent on welfare for people who could be working.

“That’s why today I’ve announced National’s ‘Welfare that Works’ policy, initially focusing on young Jobseekers.

“They are our first priority because data shows that if someone is under the age of 20 and goes on a benefit, they will spend an average of 12 years of their lives on welfare, risking the human and economic costs that come with welfare dependency." 

National’s 'Welfare that Works' policy has three main components, he says:

  • Community providers will be contracted to provide 18–24-year-old Jobseekers with a dedicated Job Coach to help get them into work, with funding linked to keeping young people off welfare.
  • Jobseekers will receive more support, with a proper assessment of their barriers to finding work, and an individual job plan to address them.
  • Those who fail to follow their plan will face sanctions, such as money management or benefit reductions, but long-term under 25 Jobseekers who get into work and stay off benefit for 12 months will receive a $1000 bonus.

"Young people being on welfare can lead to a life of isolation and often despair, instead of participation and fulfilment through work, the National leader says.

“We also know children raised in benefit dependent homes tend to have poorer life outcomes. We want to break that cycle, and a job is vital to achieving that.”

National wants every New Zealander to have the best opportunity to make the most of themselves, says Luxon.

“I simply don’t accept that some people are too hard to help.”

Minister of Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni responding to the new National policy told Newshub, "I think the whole announcement today was pretty political and predictable."

She refuted Luxon's suggestion that young Jobseekers had been getting a "free ride".

"Absolutely not. How we view young people is as a group of people that have potential. If they're on welfare and in the welfare system, then we want to make sure that they get access to the support that they need to be able to realise that potential, she said.

"I think things like 49,000 people getting Apprenticeship Boost, over 5,000 now in Mana in Mahi and a third of the nearly 18,000 on Flexi-wage are young people as well. Those are the types of investments that actually help young people get ahead."   

Sepuloni said she believed there was no merit in the newly announced policy.

"They've oversimplified what can be a very complex issue and they've ignored the fact that we've made record investments into things like upskilling and training and we're seeing the results for it."

"It's quite a disappointing policy if you ask me."