Christopher Luxon uses conference speech to promise end to ‘free ride’ for young beneficiaries

National Party leader Christopher Luxon speaks at the party’s annual conference.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Stuff

National Party leader Christopher Luxon speaks at the party’s annual conference.

National leader Christopher Luxon has used his keynote speech to the party’s annual conference in Christchurch to outline a new carrot and stick approach of getting young beneficiaries back into work.

The policy expands on Luxon and National’s insistence that benefit rolls are too bloated in a period in which the jobless rate is running at 3.3%.

Luxon – who entered the auditorium at the Te Pae Convention Centre hugging and shaking hands with supporters accompanied by upbeat music – used the speech to propose giving under-25s on the Jobseeker benefit, who have been on a benefit for three months or more, active case managers.

“To young people who don’t want to work: You might have a free ride under Labour, but under National, it ends,” Luxon said.

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To achieve this, Luxon is proposing redirecting funding from the Ministry of Social Development to “community providers” to provide dedicated job coaches to under 25s in receipt of on benefits

“A Government I lead won’t waste human potential, and we won’t give up on people who could and should be contributing.

“Currently people are not, as standard practice, required to have a plan to obtain employment until they’ve spent 12 months on a benefit. That is far too late. And you don’t have to have a case manager, though you can call an 0800 number if you want one. That is far too casual.”

Luxon said that the number of under 25s on a benefit has grown to 34,000, a 49% increase under Labour which Luxon said “doesn’t make any sense”.

National will tackle that if elected he said.

“Under a National Government, if you’re young and on the Jobseeker benefit for longer than three months, whether or not you ask for it, you’ll be getting help.”

To do this, if elected, National would pay $1000 to any under 25-year-old who stays in work for a year having previously been on a benefit for 12 months.

But if beneficiaries don’t follow their agreed plan, they would “face sanctions” under National, Luxon said.

“Under Labour, the use of sanctions has fallen dramatically, so perhaps it’s no surprise there’s been a big increase in the numbers on a Jobseeker benefit, and in how long they stay on it.

“If Labour thinks it’s being kind to set young people up for a lifetime of dependency, even when there are jobs they could be doing, National doesn’t.

“Whether they are simple or complex, the earlier problems are identified and tackled, the sooner they can be addressed.”

Luxon’s tough on welfare dependency approach is likely to draw a swift response from Labour.

He also used the keynote speech at the party conference to build on National’s theme that “Labour cannot deliver anything”.

“New Zealanders don’t need the Government to tell them to be kind. We need the Government to tell us when we’ll get an appointment at the hospital. We need the Government to keep us safe from gangs and street violence. We need the Government to get kids back to school,” he said.

“Being in government isn’t about telling people that you care. Saying you care, while taking no meaningful action, is empty.”

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