On Sunday the National Party announced proposed changes to Youth Benefits under the Future Focus – welfare policy reform. The changes proposes a shift to a job-focused benefit approach and is directly targeted at approxiamately 4,000 beneficiaries aged 16 -17-years receiving the Youth Benefit and 18-year-old parents receiving the Domestic Purposes Benefit.
The changes align with the Working Welfare Group’s view that the welfare system must not allow teenagers to conclude that long -term welfare dependence is more attractive than education, training or paid work.
The National Party propose a more managed system of welfare payments which will include essential costs, such as rent, phone and power, being paid directly on the young person’s behalf.
Other basic living costs such as food will be paid for through an electronic voucher system. This system will lessen opportunities for the user to purchase alcohol or tobacco products, and limit the amount of welfare money available for the young person to spend at their own discretion.
Criteria for welfare support will include engaging in education, training or work-based learning. To assist youth and youth parents transition into education or training they will receive more focused case management and support, and childcare assistance will be made available for teen parents.
National have also propose amendments to the Privacy and Education Act, to allow for better tracking of students when they leave secondary school. The amendments would require schools to inform the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social Development when a young person leaves school.