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.


Watch this speech on YouTube


Yesterday I gave a speech at the National Party Annual Conference in Wellington. You can read it here or watch it on YouTube here

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.  


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Best wishes,

John Key
Prime Minister

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#1 - Ross Eion Tought 2011-08-15 16:01 - (Reply)

Mr Key, a bigger nursery is not what we need - it is jobs. There is a lot of work to happen in strategic areas of NZ right now. Why are we not taking this in hand; people with money spend, spending creates GST, for goodness sake! We are better off paying for something useful to be done and workers getting experience and stability. Sometimes I wonder about our government.

#2 - Gabi Buechel 2011-08-15 16:15 - (Reply)

I recommend introducing 'budgeting' in the curriculum of young teens. Also by showing them the 'cost of a child' would make them think twice about protection and would make them show more respect for their parents.

#3 - David Moore 2011-08-15 20:15 - (Reply)

Dear Prime Minister Congratulations on proposing changes which, in my opinion, are desperately needed. You will definitely continue to receive my support in the forthcoming elections. David Moore

#4 - Barry Adams 2011-08-15 20:42 - (Reply)

Well done John, BUT well overdue for the circumstances NZ finds itself in. Maybe you could do a deal with China and get them to supply factories here in exchange for some of our food!

#5 - Mike Phillips 2011-08-15 20:58 - (Reply)

When are you going to bring back youth rates as why would I employ a 16 year old when I could employ a 25 year old for the same pay ?

#6 - keys said:
2011-08-15 22:31 - (Reply)

You really have hit the nail on the head having schools tell you when 16/17yr olds leave school.When I was that age only my aunty shirley had time for me ...If you look after that age group you will be getting it right.B lucky.

#7 - Robert 2011-08-15 22:38 - (Reply)

Taking control of people's spending is one thing, but what about creating more jobs?? How are people going to work without half-descent jobs to go to?? If there's an abundance of jobs (for NEW ZEALANDERS) you wouldn't need to be spending our taxes anywhere near as much - they'd be paying you/us instead!

#8 - Richie 2011-08-15 23:29 - (Reply)

Hay mate keep up the good work you have my support I like the idea of tightened welfare theres to many people taking advantage of somthing Thats for the needy not the greedy. Your always welcome in matamata

#9 - Peter Bacchus said:
2011-08-16 07:53 - (Reply)

Hi John, The young people should be engaged in usefull work. No one should be paid to stay home unless they are sick, disabled or injured. Apprenticeships were / are a great way for young people to learn and make a valuable contribution to their community. It is also good for developing a sense of self worth. Training in growing a good garden and sound cooking or home craft skills should be in the mix. Sound nutrition is vital for personal and national wellbeing.

#10 - Andrew H 2011-08-16 08:59 - (Reply)

This is a good start, But for too long we have paid young drop outs to bred !! and not take any responsibility for their actions, There are jobs in NZ , but lazy NZ'ers will not work , they want it all handed to them, It's True - ask yourself why some many jobs are done in NZ by visitors !! The dole is too easy to get and its too much - it always has been

#11 - Brian Duncan 2011-08-16 09:41 - (Reply)

In reply to top level, good work Prime Minister. Appreciate all the time and effort you and your party are putting in and like the path we are travelling along. Good luck for the coming election. Look forward to the next three years. Judith and Brian Duncan

#12 - Trudy Hall 2011-08-16 10:18 - (Reply)

Well done Mr Prime Minister! Welfare should be a safety net,not a harbour in which to anchor. The plan for the youth is great perhaps at the same time they should be taught about budgeting, essentials first and then if there is anything left over think about luxuries like cigarettes and alcohol. The problem is they probably do not know what the essentials are.

#13 - Geoff Lorigan said:
2011-08-16 10:57 - (Reply)

The manner in which you are keeping spirits high during this ongoing GFC is admirable. Leaders are brokers of hope. I sense you are also doing a good job balancing the needs of us all with limited financial resources, especially given the extra costs and resource demands needed to deal with the Christchurch crisis. But we need more of you as PM and more from your ministerial team - we need a vision of what we want to be in the short (5 year), medium (10 year) and long term (15 year) future. What will success look like. What will be our place in the world? What will be the key performance metrics? What skills, mind sets, capabilities, attitudes and behaviors will we need to be best in the world in our niche? And what is our syrategy for getting there? We need strategic leadership as well as effective administration. Fixing and rebalancing is necessary but insufficient. Keep up the good work - and lift and broaden your vision. Regards, Geoff Lorigan (snowed in at Arrowtown).

#14 - peter I 2011-08-16 12:29 - (Reply)

Congratulations on the youth changes, now extend it to dysfunctional welfare families in which children are abused, sent to school hungry etc. If they want to live off the NZ taxpayers, their responsibilities to their children must be enforced,

#15 - Diana Hamilton 2011-08-16 14:09 - (Reply)

Eleven months since first Chch earthquake.How many young building apprenticeships have been offered in prep. for the big build? Leave the Irish in Ireland and train or re-train our unemployed. Have primary/intermed.children salute the flag and sing National Anthem at least once a week.Keep Bible in Schools.A respect for God is the basis of wisdom and a sense of responsibility towards the society which supports us.

#16 - Carol H 2011-08-16 17:33 - (Reply)

Good on you John, why not introduce the card to all beneficiaries. I am tired of seeing people take out all their benefit & then go to the pub or pokies when they have a family to feed, next thing they are back to WINZ for a top up until next 'payday'. More controls on their spending will benefit everybody in the long run. You have our support.

#17 - Edith Dunmore 2011-08-18 11:22 - (Reply)

Way to go John. Good start next all beneficiaries. Of course there are the needy ones we need to look after the genuine ones the sick the poor those who cannot work for no reason of their own. Nothing for nothing now "Lets get to work"

#18 - Gary Westwood 2011-08-18 16:26 - (Reply)

The youth initiative is great but would like to see it expanded to all forms of welfare (Super & Veterans excluded) once the systems are bedded in. I would like to see National really go all out to win this election on its own despite the difficulties with MMP. ACT is a sick political animal and not an ideal coalition partner. The party is divided, lacks trust and is dominated by yesterday's men. Banks may have the necessary financial backing but he has no appeal to the young and not so young professionals in Epsom whose only recollection of him is as a very average mayor. I would love to see National win outright and bring the Maori Party into a coalition out of choice not necessity.

#19 - Shane KENNEDY 2011-08-19 20:06 - (Reply)

Great ideas and initiatives for the future of our children and our country. As I see it if the parents cannot look after thier children and set them up for a positive future then we have no alternative but to get the govenrnment involved to secure the next generation and reduce those numbers that arnt able to move in to adulthood as contributing members of society. This very may reduce the crime rates in the future as we may not have soo many idle hands. great work John like your style..

#20 - Fia Misa-Tupou 2011-08-24 21:44 - (Reply)

Education and employment are two very important areas that need to target while implementing this initiative for youth, there is also a need to monitor closely this benefit, what it is used for therefore food vouchers, direct payment for necessities/bills with a limited amount etc. and that less cash is handled by them and this benefit is for a limited time while proactively getting into education or employment. Parents need to attend parenting programmes in a compulsory system along with youth as it is about their relationships to be strengthened, working together as a team for a better future. Good initiative after all, considering the points mentioned. Need to be bold in making hard decisions!

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