Welfare Law Gets Total Re-write

800px-Work_and_Income_New_ZealandUrgent update! Submissions close 22nd June – check our latest post with more analysis and ideas for a submission – Welfare Law: comment due 22 June.

There are some significant policy changes coming to social welfare under the Social Security Act Rewrite Bill (all 454 pages of it!) that was introduced into Parliament on 17th March (download the Bill from the Parliament website). The Bill has not had a first reading yet. The first eight pages of the Bill give an overview of the changes and includes changes in policy “to enable improvements in frontline practice, and align with modern service delivery”.

The policy changes are:

  • merging orphans’ benefit and unsupported child’s benefit into a “supported child’s payment”
  • work obligations for people receiving sole parent support
  • emergency benefit is renamed “exceptional circumstances benefit” and will include discretion for MSD to apply work preparation, work obligations and sanctions
  • power to redirect benefit payments without the beneficiaries’ consent
  • both parents in a split custody care will be eligible for sole parent support (and subject to work obligations and sanctions)

The Bill (Part 9) includes clauses that will create a separate law covering the aged residential care subsidy, moving it into a stand-alone Act to be called the Residential Care and Disability Support Services Act 2016.

The Regulatory Impact Statements from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) are on both the MSD website and The Treasury website.

The Attorney General, Hon Chris Finlayson, has given it a clean bill of health regarding discrimination and the Bills of Rights Act, except for the provisions relating to the totally blind, who he suggests are unfairly advantaged compared to others with disability in the Bill.

The papers from the the original announcements about the re-write from 2 years ago are on the MSD website Social Security Re-write page.

NZCCSS will be working on our analysis and response to this Bill in the coming months and we look forward to networking with others on the issues the Bill raises for vulnerable people and their communities.Watch this space!