It’s been a busy week in Parliament with a number of major announcements - part of Budget 2012. What’s really excited me has been Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett's, welfare reforms which will give young people in Hawkes Bay a brighter future.
The government is to spend an extra $287.5 million dollars over the next four years helping people out of welfare and into work. The key focus is young adults aged between 16 and 17. We know from research that this age group is particularly vulnerable and at risk of becoming welfare dependent. The extra money will be used on initiatives such as budgeting, parenting services and training programmes which will help prevent young people ending up a benefit. A $10 weekly incentive payment will be provided to encourage participation.
Minister Bennett has a strong understanding of the difficulties teenage mothers face getting into work and what will help them overcome those problems. Child care is one of the big issues for young mothers trying to get off a benefit. As a result the government will spend an extra $80 million dollars on child care. This package includes a subsidy which provides up to $6 per hour towards child care and some assistance for teen mums with travel cost.
Right now we have 12% of the working-age population in New Zealand on welfare, with 220,000 children living in benefit-dependent homes. Teen parents are more likely to stay on a benefit than any other group often going on to have more children while on welfare and their children are likely to go on welfare themselves. I strongly support these reforms. Early intervention will help break the cycle of welfare dependency.
Part of this initiative is the government funding of long-acting reversible contraception. This is a voluntary option for young woman and public poll results show wide-spread support.
National wants to see kids achieve more in education. And Wairoa College is already leading the charge with a range of innovative initiatives which is great. We want students to get the skills they need to succeed in the workplace and contribute to our economy. This will help us return to surplus by 2014/15 and create a stronger economy with higher wages for our families.
In response to the letter to the editor 10-5-2012 concerning industrial action at Affco I can assure my constituents that the government is investing in the region and will continue to support growth and employment in Hawkes Bay.
These welfare reforms support that and show that the government is prepared to spend money getting people into work. The reforms will give young people in Hawkes Bay positive choices and opportunities for their future and those of their children.