Beneficiaries who fail drug tests not subject to harsh sanctions

The Ministry of Social Development is refusing to enforce harsh sanctions on beneficiaries who fail drug tests, and the Government is acknowledging the drug sanctions stigmatise the unemployed.

Viv Rickards is the Ministry's new deputy chief executive and he says imposing sanctions on people who fail drug tests just doesn’t make sense.

"For normal New Zealanders, they'll think we can stop their benefit - of course we can.

"But that's not our mode of approach, that's not our operating model, because doing that doesn't help people become employed and independent," Mr Rickards told 1 NEWS.

The Drug Foundation's executive director Ross Bell said that's an astonishing thing for the Ministry to say, but agrees wholeheartedly.

"If the sanctions regime isn't being used and the testing regime doesn't work - then lets scrap it."

The Greens social development spokesperson Jan Logie says her party wants them gone.

"They destabilise families trying to get by and that's not helpful for any of us.

"This was actually more about trying to stigmatize beneficiaries as lazy pot smokers than it was addressing any real issue."

Sanctions for failing drug tests were introduced by the former National Government in 2013 - and at that time it was estimated thousands of unemployed New Zealanders would fail the tests.

However, that hasn't occurred.

"You know we've had over 40,000 (47,115 last year) people going towards jobs where people require drug testing and out of that we've only had 170 people have come back where they've failed the drugs test," Mr Rickard said.

An advocate for Auckland Action Against Poverty, Ricardo Menendez March wants the drug sanctions axed.

"A lot of money is going into this fear-mongering atmosphere when really this money should be going into funding addiction support services."

The Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni says the drug sanctions have a negative impact on the unemployed.

"I agree they're stigmatising but I guess it's a hangover from the previous government that was trying to look like they were coming down hard on beneficiaries."

But National's deputy leader Paula Bennett believes new drug testing technology needs to be investigated.

"The way that we originally did that drug testing years ago was controversial it's not something that you do easily.

"Actually it's easy to test for marijuana, it's hard to test for meth, I think it is something that needs to be revisited."

The Government believes drug sanctions only stigmatise the unemployed, while National wants new testing technology to be investigated. Source: 1 NEWS

St John calls for compulsory seat belts on NZ buses after three serious crashes in two weeks

St John Ambulance is calling for compulsory seat belts on New Zealand buses following three serious bus crashes in the past two weeks.

Two people died as a result of the accidents. 

St John says all the injuries would have been preventable had passengers been wearing seat belts.

"It's really disappointing for us to attend incidents when we know it's preventable and therefore if those actions had been taken years previously, then there could be people walking about," said Norma Lane, St John director of clinical operations. 

The latest incident saw a school bus crash in Taranaki, leaving the driver dead in what may have been a medical event. Source: 1 NEWS

The Government has launched an investigation into the safety of buses which St John is keen to participate in. 


Watch: Simon Bridges says Government's plastic bag ban is a distraction and won't make any difference

Simon Bridges has called the Government's plastic bag ban a "distraction" and says it won't make any difference.

His comments came after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage today announced the move to phase out the bags over the next year, with a six month phase-out period proposed.

Speaking outside Massey University in Palmerston North today, the National Party leader gave his thoughts on the announcement.

"I don't think the plastic bag ban is going to make any difference, supermarkets and consumers were moving toward doing the right thing anyway.

"Ultimately, it's a big distraction from the issue the Prime Minister must be focusing on at the moment which is a business confidence crisis that will have a real impact on New Zealanders jobs and household spending," Mr Bridges said.

The Government's move comes after a petition with 65,000 signatures called for a ban on the single-use bags.

The Prime Minister made the announcement today in Auckland to phase out plastic bags over the next year. Source: 1 NEWS

The public are able to give their views on the change until September 14, which includes options when the complete phase-out date should be and retailers that should be exempt.  


Mr Bridges thinks that falling business confidence should be the Government's sole focus right now. Source: 1 NEWS