The Labour Government has cut the benefits of around 4000 sick, injured or disabled jobseekers in the last five years because they weren't preparing to return to work fast enough.

The Green Party's social development spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March says it is awful and is accusing the Government of actively targeting disabled New Zealanders with sanctions.

"It needs to immediately stop," he told 1News.

The Green MP believes many Labour MPs don't realise what their own Government is doing.

"We're calling on Labour to stop focussing on attacking National MPs for their policy and to look at their own."

In early August, National leader Christopher Luxon revealed the party's 'Welfare That Works' policy designed to get young people off jobseeker benefits and into jobs.

"To young people who don't want to work, you might have a free ride under Labour but under National it ends," he told the party's annual conference in Christchurch.

Young people who didn't comply with the policy, such as being job coached, would face sanctions, including the roughly 35% of young people who are on jobseeker benefits because they are injured, are sick or have disabilities and are unable to work.

The Government said it showed how "out of touch" Luxon and National are.

The Labour MP for Nelson Rachel Boyack tweeted the following message which was liked by multiple Labour MPs.

"Just to be very, very clear, people who are unwell or have disabilities and aren’t able to work or are having difficulty finding work shouldn’t be sanctioned!"

But the Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said it's justified.

"It's not hypocritical, when you look at the small numbers and the expectations that are in place, it's us following the guidelines that we have."

Sepuloni said the Government only sanctions people if medical advice shows they are fit to return to work.

Following National's jobseeker announcement, Sepuloni quoted a former jobseeker Daisy Bell in Parliament after she had criticised National's policy in an interview with Re:.

"I don't know how sitting up at midnight hooked up to a dialysis machine screams free ride to you."

Today, 1News caught up with Bell again, who has a new kidney, is off jobseeker and is studying to be a health professional, and asked her what she made of the Government's actions.

She said she was disappointed to see Labour sanctioning people who are sick like she used to be.

"I'm willing to bet it's a tool that is not being appropriately used....people are being treated unfairly and in a really unkind way."

Work preparation obligations for people on the jobseeker benefit may include attending seminars or work and education programmes as directed by the Ministry of Social Development or completing employment related training.

Figures obtained by 1News show the number of sanctions imposed on people on Jobseeker Support (Health Condition, Injury or Disability) for failing to prepare to work over the last five years.

Financial year alongside number of sanctions: 

2021/2022: 765

2020/2021: 435

2019/2020: 609

2018/2019: 876

2017/2018: 1671

Top Image: A person sitting on the bed feeling unwell. Photo: iStock

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