4:00AM Monday Aug 17, 2009
By Claire Trevett
Paula Bennett has revealed that 307 beneficiaries get more than $1000 a week. Of those, 168 are on the domestic purposes benefit.
The top 50 recipients face an audit of their entitlements ordered by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.
She has revealed that 307 beneficiaries get more than $1000 a week. Many among the top 50 have more than eight children.
They include a couple with 10 children who get $1200 a week. Both parents have been on the unemployment benefit for more than 15 years.
Of those getting more than $1000 a week, 168 are on the domestic purposes benefit. The basic DPB pays $272 a week, but people receiving it can get extra allowances, such as grants for disabilities or sickness in families. Other top-ups include up to $255 a week in accommodation supplements, especially for those paying high rents in Auckland.
The figures also include family tax credits and subsidies for childcare assistance that are paid directly to childcare centres.
Ms Bennett said she could not guarantee that all of those getting more than $1000 a week were entitled to all the money. She had no impression that the system was being abused, but said checks were needed.
"There are isolated cases where it seems like a lot of money.
"I think it needs to be fair, so we are ensuring people are getting what they need, but not more than they are entitled to."
The minister gave the figures in response to questions from Labour's social welfare spokeswoman, Annette King, after Ms Bennett said single parents with three children could qualify for more than $1000 a week in Government support.
She used the figure to defend her decision to restrict a training incentive allowance for solo parents, worth about $3200 a year, to courses below tertiary level.
Yesterday, Ms King said the 168 who got more than $1000 a week were a tiny proportion of the 104,000 people on the DPB, and Ms Bennett had deliberately exaggerated.
"She made it sound as if it was really easy to get that kind of assistance. Well, there's not many who make it, is there?
"But the perception she has left is that there are a lot of women who get themselves pregnant and then get a lot more money than working New Zealanders."
The Privacy Commission is investigating Ms Bennett's decision to make public details of the incomes of solo mothers Natasha Fuller and Jennifer Johnston after they spoke out about the decision to restrict the training incentive allowance.
Her action resulted in a high level of anger and personal attacks against the two women on talkback radio and internet sites.
Ms King said the consequence had been to "unleash the beneficiary bashers".
"What's sad is that in talkback land, we haven't heard from the beneficiary bashers in a long time.
"They were always there, but they hadn't been unleashed in a long time, and she unleashed them and then says she was surprised.
"Well, I'm astonished she was surprised, because she has been there and knows the views of some people."
Ms Bennett apologised to one of the mothers for the public reaction to the figures and expressed her disgust at the reaction of many in the public.
She has now asked her officials to look at the possibility of providing some form of loan in lieu of the training allowance for those who need more than the $1000 allowed under the student loan scheme.
The National Party's policy of requiring solo parents to start at least part-time work when their children all reach school age has been postponed because the economic downturn has made it harder to find suitable
Who gets what
307 beneficiaries receive more than $1000 a week in Government support.
168 are on the domestic purposes benefit.
24 are on the sickness benefit.
19 are on the unemployment benefit.
96 are on the invalid benefit.
What makes up the $1000-plus figure?
Some or all of the following:
Basic benefit (DPB is $272 a week) plus:
Accommodation supplement (up to $225 a week).
Family tax credit ($86 a week for first child, $60 for subsequent children; increases slightly with age).
Disability allowances (up to $56 a week).
Child disability allowance (up to $42 a week).
Unsupported child or orphan's benefits ($132 to $185 a week, age-dependent).
Childcare subsidies (maximum $181.50 a week for preschoolers or in school holidays or $72 for after school, paid direct to childcare centre).