15 August 2011
Building a more effective welfare system
In this edition of Key Notes, I talk about the first steps in National's plan to reduce long-term welfare dependency.
BUILDING A MORE EFFECTIVE WELFARE SYSTEM
In my speech, I announced the first of National's changes to reduce long-term benefit dependency. Our first step is focused on young people. Following this, you can expect to see several other changes as we work through the Welfare Working Group's recommendations.
I believe very strongly in the welfare state. When I was growing up, my mother was on the Widow's Benefit for a time and we lived in a state house. I'm really grateful for the opportunities the welfare state gave me.
But as a country, we need to have a hard look at where the welfare system has got to. I don't think our welfare system today is what its architects had in mind.
That's why National has a new approach to reduce long-term benefit dependency. The changes I announced today are in two parts. I've explained them below.
NATIONAL'S WELFARE CHANGES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
First, we're changing the way we support all 16- and 17-year-olds who are not in education, training or work - regardless of whether they're receiving a benefit.
We're making changes to find out who these young people are, because too many of them are on a collision course with the benefit system.
Schools will be required to tell us when 16- and 17-year-olds leave during the year. That means we'll actually know who the at-risk young people in our communities are.
We'll then fund organisations such as NGOs and private providers to support and mentor these kids. We're also boosting the number of places in training programmes such as the Youth Guarantee and Trades Academies.
Second, we're taking a more hands-on approach to young people on benefits, with the exception of those on the Invalid's Benefit.
We're going to provide comprehensive and concentrated support for these vulnerable teens. This includes helping them manage their money within their budget.
We're also going to make sure they meet their obligations, which includes getting into education, training or work. They must also attend programmes if required, such as budgeting or parenting programmes.
Click here to read a one-page summary of our changes for young people.
CELEBRATING 75 YEARS
I had a great time at the conference over the weekend and enjoyed catching up with National Party members. It was good to see so many there in support of this National-led Government.
This year marks 75 years since the Party was founded, so we took the chance to celebrate this milestone at dinner on Saturday night. After 75 years, National still stands for a safe, prosperous, and successful New Zealand where all Kiwis have the opportunity to get ahead and realise their personal goals.
We've made great progress for New Zealand in the past few years. But there's still a lot to do, and I know that our strong team of MPs and Ministers are full of enthusiasm for the work ahead.
BUILDING A STRONGER ECONOMY
Recently we've seen some of the world's biggest economies struggling. We've seen just how volatile the world's financial markets can be.
National has taken several steps to make sure the impact on New Zealanders is minimised. Thanks to our strong economic management, we're actually better placed than many other countries to face this uncertain environment.
We're getting on top of debt by keeping it below 30 per cent of GDP and we'll be back in surplus by at least 2014/15. Our economy is growing, and households and businesses have been saving more and shifting away from an excessive reliance on borrowing.
Watch Finance Minister Bill English's video on the situation here.
PRESENTING MY PACIFIC YOUTH AWARDS
Last Wednesday I presented my Pacific Youth Awards to six talented young New Zealanders. In order to build a brighter future for New Zealand, we have to capitalise on the skills and talents of all Kiwis. That's why it's great to see such talent among our Pacific communities.
See photos of the award ceremony here.
FROM MY DIARY
Today I announced the state funeral for Sir Paul Reeves. Sir Paul was New Zealand's first Maori Governor-General and he made an enormous contribution to our country. He passed away yesterday.
Last Thursday I gave a speech at the University of Auckland about the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum to be held in Auckland.
I was in Christchurch on Friday to launch Restart the Heart - an initiative for CBD retailers that is being supported by the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.
On Wednesday this week I'll be attending the state farewell for Governor-General Rt Hon Sir Anand Satyanand. Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae will be sworn in as our new Governor-General on 31 August.