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Govt hits back at criticism as job seeker benefits rise

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Friday, 18 January 2019, 11:32a.m.
Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni says sharp increases in welfare payments for emergency housing and food are due to the housing crisis. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Government has hit back at claims they have been soft on sanctions leading to 11,000 more people claiming the job seeker benefit.

The Opposition says this is due to the rising cost of living, but Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni says it is because of the housing crisis.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni told Tim Dower population growth has been a major factor resulting in the surge.

She says overall benefit numbers are stable - only 0.1 percent higher than last year, and better than when National was in power.

"The Government is focused on supporting people to up-skill and train for the jobs that are available, and that takes a little bit of time. But we are feeling very optimistic. The sanction regime was the same under National but now benefits can't be cancelled or suspended without authorised sign off."

Welfare payments for emergency housing have soared almost 200 percent to $19.5 million dollars in the past year. Sepuloni says a range of reasons are to blame, including decisions made by the last government in regards to poverty and the housing crisis. 

"The Coalition Government was never going to be able to fix that crisis overnight, so it's important to provide people with the emergency support they need while building work ramps up."

The Government announced in last year's Budget that it wants to build 6400 state houses over four years.

LISTEN ABOVE AS CARMEL SEPULONI SPEAKS TO TIM DOWER

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