Recommendation 1: Amend the Social Security Act 2018 to state that anyone exercising power under the Act have regard to the following purpose and values.
The purpose of the welfare system is to whakamana tāngata and ensure a dignified life by:
The welfare system is underpinned by Kia Piki Ake Te Mana Tangata, including kaupapa Māori values of:
Recommendation 2: Use the following principles to guide the design and operation of the welfare system.
Recommendation 3: Establish a cross-ministerial approach to implement and monitor the effectiveness of the implementation and impact on outcomes of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s recommendations (across welfare, health, housing, justice, education and employment) that is cognisant of responsibilities under Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) and involves users of the welfare system.
Recommendation 4: Direct the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development to design and implement a welfare system that will fulfil the new purpose and principles of the amended Social Security Act, is cognisant of responsibilities under Te Tiriti o Waitangi and involves users of the system.
Recommendation 5: Direct the Ministry of Social Development and Inland Revenue to publish yearly, whether as part of their Annual Reports or Statement of Intent, or as a standalone report, information on key outcomes for those interacting with the welfare system, including information about full and correct entitlements, take-up rates of payments, employment outcomes, the impact of employment supports and services, and after-tax and abatement earnings.
Measures should include:
Recommendation 6: Embed the competencies required to achieve greater equity for Māori in the job descriptions, key performance indicators and performance reviews of the Ministry of Social Development’s management and staff.
Recommendation 7: Include in the amended Social Security Act specific requirements for the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development to be accountable to iwi (as recognised collectives) and to Māori (as individuals, whānau and communities) for achieving equitable wellbeing outcomes for Māori from the welfare system.
Recommendation 8: Direct the Ministry of Social Development to commit to building its cultural responsiveness to Pacific People, to achieve equitable outcomes for Pacific People engaging with the welfare system. Cultural responsiveness includes having an awareness of cultural obligations experienced by Pacific People around contributions for weddings, funerals and other critical cultural events and taking account of the nuances within diverse Pacific communities.
Recommendation 9: The Welfare Expert Advisory Group recommends, in addition to the recommendations elsewhere that will improve outcomes for Māori, the Government:
Detailed recommendations for this section are listed on page 91.
Recommendation 10: Develop a mutual expectations framework to govern interactions between the Ministry of Social Development and those who interact with the welfare system.
Recommendation 11: Remove some obligations and sanctions (for example, pre-benefit activities, warrants to arrest sanctions, social obligations, drug-testing sanctions, 52-week reapplication requirements, sanctions for not naming the other parent, the subsequent child work obligation, and the mandatory work ability assessment for people with health conditions or disabilities).
Recommendation 12: Improve outcomes by ensuring the public-facing, frontline service is consistent with the new purpose and principles through sufficient resourcing (for example, staffing, support and services), an appropriate performance framework, and complaints and disputes processes.
Recommendation 13: Assist recipients of Sole Parent Support to return to part-time work when their youngest child is 6 years old (subject to supports being available, such as good quality childcare) instead of the current 3 years. Support but not require all sole parents to return to work when their youngest child is under 6 years old.
Recommendation 14: Continue to prioritise a reduction in outstanding benefit debt through sustainable repayments, and minimise the creation of overpayments, including reviewing recoverable hardship assistance and current practice, to be more consistent with whakamana tāngata.
Recommendation 15: Align the regulations and practice around benefit debt so that it is treated in substantially the same way as Inland Revenue treats taxpayer debt.
Recommendation 16: Instigate a cross-government approach to managing debt to government agencies.
Recommendation 17: Endorse the Ministry of Social Development’s three-tiered approach to responding to fraud allegation: intervene, facilitate and, as a last resort, investigate. Apply the principles of natural justice in all steps, and, if the outcome is disputed, permit a review independent of the Ministry of Social Development.
Recommendation 18: Enhance and improve the support for people exiting prisons, including increasing the Steps to Freedom grant, and ensuring that any person who leaves prison has appropriate identification and is engaged with specialised care and supportive housing initiatives. Move practices around prisoner integration out of the ‘pilot’ stage and draw on evaluation data to embed integrated support for these individuals.
|Mutual expectations framework||Reform the obligations and sanctions regime into a system of mutual expectations and responsibilities, apply these according to the circumstances of the individual and in a way that is consistent with the proposed purpose, principles and values. Strong checks to mitigate potential negative impacts on individuals and their families will be required. This new approach is strongly connected to improving wellbeing and supporting the increased skills and labour market capacity of the individual and family or whānau.|
|Obligations and sanctions removal||
|Resourcing and other processes of the public-facing, frontline service are consistent with the new purpose and principles||
Resource frontline services to the level required to achieve outcomes as a priority.
Implement an ongoing, comprehensive, active and agile staff training strategy.
Adopt an improved and accessible complaints process that is measured by a satisfactory restoration of the relationship between the parties.
Make the review process simpler, speedier and more accessible, and ensure the principle of natural justice is observed.
Make a further hearing at the Social Security Appeal Authority available to those who take an unsuccessful claim to the Medical Appeals Board.
Assign people likely to be in long-term receipt of a benefit or with complex needs a dedicated case manager, and give such case managers small caseloads so they can adequately address the wellbeing of the person in need and their family or whānau.
Resource the workforce adequately, and streamline systems in consultation with the frontline workforce to improve work flow and recipient service experience.
Put people at the centre of decision making, seek feedback from staff about how system changes affect their roles, and empower staff to work proactively to enhance the mana of benefit recipients.
Provide multiple channels for service so applicants can access assistance through whichever channel they are most comfortable using.
Take a Whānau Ora-type approach where the complexity of a person’s situation means multiple agencies are involved and skilled navigators support the person’s interactions with the agencies and community organisations.
|Ways to minimise the creation of overpayments and reduce overall indebtedness||
Review all hardship payments and ensure eligibility is in line with the new purpose and principles of the Social Security Act.
Give MSD the mandate to improve, simplify and redesign practice around income declarations.
Increase funding for community initiatives that promote financial literacy and for debt reduction, such as no interest, no fee and debt consolidation loans.
Introduce a scheme of incentivising benefit debt repayment, such as a Matched Debt Reduction Scheme, to reduce outstanding benefit debt.
Review internal performance measures relating to debt, to bring them in line with the new purpose and principles.
|Minimising the small amount of fraud||
Endorse MSD's three-tiered approach towards alleged fraud.
Introduce independent review proceedings prior to a Benefit Review Committee for prosecution investigations.
Explore and align prosecution practice with Inland Revenue’s approach to prosecution.
|Improving the service provided to people released from prison||
Scale up the Supporting Offenders into Employment intervention and MSD’s reintegration efforts, in conjunction with the Department of Corrections.
Pastoral care for people released from prison should be increased.
Review and increase the current value of the Steps to Freedom grant, to ensure it is adequate for basic living costs, including housing.
Monitor and ensure prisoners have the appropriate documentation to obtain income support or work on release (for example, an official form of identification, a driver’s licence, bank account, contact details).
Consider continuing housing cost assistance for people entering prison for a short period, on remand or in custody.
The following recommended changes need to provide people on low incomes with significantly more than they currently receive (without disadvantaging others on low incomes). Recommendations 19 to 23 should be implemented urgently.
Recommendation 19: Adopt the following 10 principles to redesign the income support system.
Recommendation 20: Reform main benefits by:
Recommendation 21: Fully index all income support payments and thresholds annually to movements in average wages or prices, whichever is the greater. Index Accommodation Supplement rates to movements in housing costs.
Recommendation 22: Consider introducing a Living Alone Payment that contributes to the additional costs of adults living alone (without another adult) on a low income.
Recommendation 23: Reform Working for Families and other tax credits by:
Recommendation 24: Reform supplementary assistance and hardship assistance so they are adequate, appropriately designed and easy to access.
Recommendation 25: Require the Ministry of Social Development to, within 2 years, complete work, including commissioning independent research and focus groups, to establish a minimum income standard for New Zealand (with 5-year reviews).
Recommendation 26: Increase, as soon as possible, overall income support to levels adequate for meaningful participation in the community, as defined by the minimum income standard (which reflects different family circumstances, for example, children, disabilities and regional area) and maintain this level of support through appropriate indexation.
Recommendation 27: Pass on all child support collected to receiving carers, including for recipients of Unsupported Child’s Benefit.
Recommendation 28: Move income support settings over time to be more neutral on the impact of being in a relationship in the nature of marriage.
|Family Tax Credit||
|Best Start Tax Credit||
|Child Tax Credit||
|Ensuring benefit settings have less impact on partnering decisions||
Recommendation 29: Urgently expand and accelerate Government efforts to substantially increase public housing on an industrial scale and continue urgent efforts to end homelessness.
Recommendation 30: Increase the range of home ownership and tenure options for people on low and low–middle incomes.
Recommendation 31: Increase the capacity of third-sector community-based housing providers.
Recommendation 32: Develop and enact laws and regulations to ensure healthy homes and housing security, decent standards of housing quality, universal design, and accessibility
Recommendation 33: Subsidise housing costs for people on low incomes (in addition to raising main benefit rates to provide an adequate income) and ensure the combination of changes to housing support and abatement rates make households better off.
Recommendation 34: Improve access to affordable, suitable housing support for people on low and low–middle incomes, including a range of affordable home-ownership products and papakāinga housing.
|Subsidising housing costs for those on low incomes||
Housing subsidies could be improved by:
Specifically in relation to Accommodation Supplement:
– increasing the maxima to the median regional rental rates (for the latest year available)
– reviewing the maxima and the area locations annually to maintain the value of the payments with changes in median rental rates in different parts of the country over time
– decreasing the co-payment rate from 30% to 25% (that is, increase the Government contribution from 70% to 75%)
– decreasing the entry threshold for homeowners from 30% to 25% to align with renters
– allowing people who are studying (and meet the criteria for Student Allowance) but who do not receive Student Allowance, to apply for Accommodation Supplement.
Increase the cash asset limit on Accommodation Supplement to $42,700, to align with the cash asset limit for social housing:
– index the cash asset limit to maintain relativity over time
– remove the cash asset abatement test for Accommodation Supplement
– amend the definition of cash asset to exclude the proceeds from the sale of a house, for a reasonable period, to allow the person to re-enter the housing market, taking account of any special requirements or modifications the person or their family may require to a house.
Improve the take-up rate of Accommodation Supplement and Temporary Additional Support for non-benefit recipients through greater cooperation with Inland Revenue, better use of its information, and increased publicity and proactive activity.
Increase the flexibility in the requirement to review and renew Temporary Additional Support when assessments relate to housing costs, with reviews between 3 and 12 months tailored to individual circumstances, and accordingly rename, such as ‘Tailored Additional Support’.
Ensure the combination of changes to housing support and abatement rates, alongside other income support, make low- and low–middle income households substantially better off.
|Government to undertake further work||
Determine the impact on low-income households of maintaining levels of Accommodation Supplement for a reasonable period for beneficiaries who move into full-time work, so they are well supported to remain in work and able to clear debts and build savings, similar to the recommendation on income-related rent subsidy.
Change the way Accommodation Supplement payments are calculated to move away from family size to being based on the number of bedrooms, including allowing bedroom space for a disability support person and for children in shared custody, and determine the impact of this change on low-income households.
Review the level of the cash asset limit for the income-related rent subsidy and Accommodation Supplement, to maintain the principle that it allows people to save for a mortgage deposit for a median-priced house.
Review, as the supply-side measures increase and affordability improves, the roles of MSD, Housing New Zealand and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to consider whether an integrated, single-agency approach to housing might be preferable.
Review the housing assessment and allocation process so there is an appropriate balance between placing locals waiting to be housed and high-needs households from outside the region.
|Home ownership and
tenure options and
Consider the following approaches:
These approaches must be based on achieving equity in housing outcomes, including ownership, for Māori and Pacific People. This should result in culturally appropriate rental and ownership housing, including household size and function, and include papakāinga options.
Recommendation 35: Establish an effective employment service of the Ministry of Social Development so it is better able to assist people to obtain and keep good, sustainable work.
Recommendation 36: Revamp active labour market, labour market, employment and training policies across government to make them more coherent and effective.
Recommendation 37: Strengthen the Ministry of Social Development's redundancy support policies to better support displaced workers.
Recommendation 38: Abolish, in the Youth Service, compulsory money management, and separate case management from youth mentoring so it is consistent with and has a positive youth development focus.
Recommendation 39: Use evidence-based approaches that support young people to be learning, earning and, where young people are parents, caring. These approaches need to build on the strengths of young people and provide a basis for their long-term engagement with the changing world of work.
|An effective employment service||
Institute a new operating model that provides people at risk of poor labour market outcomes (including Māori, Pacific People, people with health conditions or disabilities, and people whose jobs have been made redundant) with proactive and sustained support to obtain good, sustainable work.
Increase significantly investment (with appropriate monitoring and reporting) in active labour market programmes.
Establish a dedicated deputy Chief Executive for employment in MSD.
Provide sufficient numbers of well-trained, well-resourced, regional labour market managers and specialist employment case managers in MSD.
Provide public employment services to people at risk of becoming unemployed.
|Revamp of Active Labour
labour market and
Review a whole-of-government approach to labour market, training and vocational education (with MSD as an integral partner) with MBIE, Te Puni Kōkiri, Ministry of Pacific Peoples, Tertiary Education Commission, Careers New Zealand, polytechnics, industry training organisations, and regional and local government.
Establish national and regional advisory groups of the social partners (government-business-union), iwi and regional and local government to implement employment and active labour market policies at a national and regional level.
Resource and develop a portfolio of labour market programmes that is driven by local labour market conditions, evidence based, and informed by all relevant national and local labour market data.
Access the best international data and programmes so New Zealand is well placed for a future labour market in which more people might more frequently transition in and out of work and where there is a greater need to support workers to re-skill or up-skill due to displacement or moving in or out of casual work.
Make labour market programmes and work far more accessible for disabled people.
|Loss of employment||
Establish a short-term (for example, 6 months) benefit for partnered people who lose their jobs or incomes (for example, due to redundancy) through an earnings disregard of their partner’s income (up to a cap) for this period (see the detailed recommendations table in chapter 7).
Adequately fund redundancy support programmes, which include a suite of free or subsidised training and education courses, for workers who experience redundancy.
Ensure people can resume benefits readily (to allow for unpredictable changes in income and to provide people with confidence to take up employment), including removal of income stand-down periods.
|Young people supported to be earning, learning and, where they are parents, caring||
Increase investment in well coordinated and youth development-focused programmes to help young people into education, training, alternative employment opportunities or volunteering.
Tailor youth initiatives to their communities.
Take an evidence-based approach, informed by the voices of young people and building on the strengths of young people, and provide a basis for their long-term engagement with the changing world of work.
Provide assistance with a specific focus on the needs of rangatahi Māori, Pacific youth and young people with health conditions or disabilities, to provide more equitable outcomes and success for these groups of young people.
Recommendation 40: Improve the health and wellbeing of people with health conditions and disabilities, along with carers of people with health conditions and disabilities who interact with the welfare system by:
Recommendation 41: Include in the scope of the New Zealand Health and Disability System Review the relationship between the health and disability system and the accident compensation scheme and how the relationship between these and the welfare system could be changed to improve outcomes for people with health conditions and disabilities and carers.
|Improving income support for people in the welfare system with health conditions or disabilities and carers of people with health conditions or disabilities||
Consider increasing financial support for people affected by health conditions and disabilities not due to an accident to be equivalent to that provided by the accident compensation scheme. Treat people with similar levels of disability – whether caused by illness or injury – similarly. Link this support to relevant employment support where work is a possibility.
Introduce time-limited individual entitlement for income and employment support for low-income families suffering from health shocks (see the eligibility section of the detailed income support recommendations, page 118).
Consider transferring to New Zealand Superannuation people on Supported Living Payment who are so unwell or disabled that there is no foreseeable chance they will come off the benefit during their life.
Align the abatement rate of non-blind disabled people receiving Supported Living Payment with that of the blind, to address the current inequity.
Assistance for the cost of having a health condition or disability
Redesign supplementary assistance for people with health conditions or disabilities, so it is easier to access and more accurately covers the costs of having the health condition or disability.
Increase the level of income support provided by Disability Allowance with three rates (low, medium and high) related to the degree of burden of disability or care needed.
Increase the level of income support provided by Child Disability Allowance, and introduce three rates (low, medium and high) related to the degree of burden of disability or care needed.
Direct the Ministry of Social Development and Ministry of Health to clarify where responsibility for covering the cost to individuals of health conditions and disabilities should lie and make this transparent, known to the public, and accessible.
Include in the New Zealand Health and Disability System Review how cost and other barriers can be reduced so people on low incomes can access primary care, dental care, alcohol and other drug services, mental health care, secondary care, and vision and hearing services.
De-couple Supported Living Payment Carer from Supported Living Payment, and create a carers benefit that continues to be paid at the same rate as Supported Living Payment. This allows more flexibility in the provision of non-financial support.
Introduce an annual carers payment to help meet the additional costs associated with care.
|Implementing in the welfare system a comprehensive approach to support the suitable employment of people with health conditions and disabilities and carers of people with health conditions and disabilities||
Implement within the welfare system a comprehensive approach to support the suitable employment of people with health conditions and disabilities and carers that includes:
Support the recommendations of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction and the 2018 OECD report Mental Health and Work: New Zealand, because of the large proportion of people receiving health and disability benefits whose primary barrier to work is a mental health condition.
|Meaningful community participation to promote wellbeing||Work with the Ministry of Health to ensure those who are unlikely to ever engage in paid work are supported to participate meaningfully in their communities.|
|Prevention and harm reduction||
Work to eliminate people’s negative experiences with MSD, which worsen mental distress, by changing the way MSD interacts with people in line with our proposed purpose, principles and values.
Government to prioritise the prevention of ill health and disability by:
Recommendation 42: Direct the Ministry of Social Development to develop the capacity and capability to engage with, promote and fund community organisations to provide wide-ranging opportunities for volunteers and people receiving benefits to be meaningfully engaged in their communities.