Carmel Sepuloni hits back at National's Simon Bridges over claims Government loosening beneficiary sanctions, says 'he’s a little bit confused'

Source: 1News

The Minister for Social Development says National Party leader Simon Bridges is a "little bit confused" after saying there had been an "unfair" loosening of rules for beneficiary sanctions. 

"New figures show that since the Government took office, there has been a 21 per cent drop in the number of sanctions imposed, despite there being almost 2000 more people on the Jobseeker benefit," Mr Bridges said in a statement yesterday.

"This isn't a sign that more people on benefits are being more compliant, it's a sign the Government is going soft."

However Minister Carmel Sepuloni said today she thought Mr Bridges was "a little bit confused because he's talking about Government changes to sanctions when we haven’t actually changed anything". 

She said there had been a change about how benefits were suspended and cancelled due to the amount of mistakes being made, which contributed to the drop. 

Ms Sepuloni said Mr Bridges was referring to the removal of all sanctions, however she disputed that saying there had been no commitment and currently there was "only a discussion about excessive sanctions".

The Government have committed to removing one sanction, which penalises a person by reducing their benefit for not naming the other parent.

Ms Sepuloni said there had been "lots of discussions" when asked if NZ First were on board with scrapping the sanction, and she was not aware of any concerns on the matter from the party. 

"Currently, it is some of the poorest mothers and their children in this country that are being penalised for that absent parent."

On TVNZ1's Breakfast yesterday , Mr Bridges said sanctions on benefit payments gave expectations and incentivised people to work, and the loosening of the rules was "unfair".  

"It's unfair on taxpayers who work hard and expect to see their money well spent. But it's also not fair to the beneficiaries frankly."

"We should expect more of them, because someone who is seeking a job and gets a job is better esteemed, they have better purpose, and life outcomes."

Ms Sepuloni called Mr Bridges' comments on sanctions "really uncalled for", and she did not think he should be focusing on those areas due to the timing of the Salvation Army's latest report on people in need in New Zealand. 

When asked if she agreed with Mr Bridges about using sanctions to incentivise people to get off the benefit, Ms Sepuloni said there was "a lot of evidence to show that actually in many cases they don't work".