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Huge rewrite of social security laws

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 10/05/2016

Mrs Tolley says the bill is largely policy-neutral. © Getty Images Mrs Tolley says the bill is largely policy-neutral. A bill that rewrites the Social Security Act has passed its first reading in parliament.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says it's been a huge task updating and reorganising the legislation to make it easier to understand and reflect modern approaches.

"Fifty years of amendments and repeals, including 153 amending Acts, have left New Zealand's welfare legislation fragmented, hard to understand and difficult to navigate," she said.

"Of the 523 sections in the Act, only four have remained unchanged and one has been amended 286 times."

Mrs Tolley says the bill is largely policy-neutral.

"This is not about reforming the welfare system, but making the legislation user-friendly and supporting an efficient and modern service delivery."

Some of the minor changes in the bill are:

* Merging the Orphans Benefit and the Unsupported Childs Benefit into the newly titled Supported Child Payment

* Recognising that carers of children who are not their own have childcare responsibilities and therefore their work obligations should reflect that

* Changing the name of the Emergency Benefit to the Exceptional Circumstances Benefit

* Extending work or work preparation obligations to those receiving the Exceptional Circumstances Benefit to ensure people with similar circumstances are treated the same

* Allowing for both parents to apply for Sole Parent Support in cases of split care.

The bill passed its first reading 109-12 on Tuesday night. Only NZ First opposed it.

It has been sent to a select committee for public submissions.

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