Released prisoners make up a big proportion of those joining the sickness benefit, and their children are falling through the cracks, the deputy PM says.
Finance Minister Bill English said data sharing has revealed that 5500 of the 7500 prisoners released each year join the sickness benefit within 12 months, and nearly half of those go on to reoffend.
If they’re well enough to commit crime, they’re well enough not to be on the sickness benefit.
“They [the prisoners] left healthy, trained, probably in their heads not quite rehabilitated, and within 12 months two-thirds of them are on a sickness benefit which means they don’t have to front up for a work test,” Finance Minister English said.
“We’ve had [the prisoners] drug free, alcohol free, fed properly, insulated and warm.
“That is nuts. We didn’t know that until about three months ago – that the main flow of people on to a sickness benefit is healthy former prisoners.”
The great thing about the data focus we are seeing is as we learn stuff like that, then you can do something about it. You need to identify the problem, before you can solve it.