Weekend Sun column

Friday, June 19, 2015

It is often said that a measure of a society is how it looks after its most vulnerable. The National-led Government is committed to helping our most vulnerable citizens improve their lives and those of their families.

In our Caucus and around the Cabinet table we are working hard at taking a fresh approach to long-standing social problems including poor education and inter-generational welfare dependency.

We are investing more than ever in Education, and in the areas that have been proven to have the greatest benefit. Budget 2015 included an extra $74.9 million for early childhood education, enabling more children to attend from an earlier age, and for more hours.

We are also focused on breaking the cycle of long-term welfare dependency. Statistics show that children who grow up in a household with at least one parent receiving a benefit are more likely to end up on a benefit themselves.

One of our Better Public Service targets is to reduce the number of people continuously receiving Jobseeker Support for more than 12 months by 30 per cent, from 78,000 in April 2012 to 55,000 by June 2017.

Focused on upskilling people and helping them into education, training and work is good for them, good for their children, and ultimately good for the country. Last week Social Development Minister Anne Tolley was in Tauranga. We heard from those working with these vulnerable people about the positive impacts our changes are having for those who have found work.

This approach is working. Last year we reduced the expected cost of supporting current beneficiaries over their lifetime by $7.5 billion. Most importantly, it means there are 42,000 fewer children living in benefit-dependent households than three years ago.