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Considering newborns

Written By: - Date published: 5:00 pm, May 29th, 2014 - 43 comments
Categories: babies, benefits, child welfare, cost of living, families, paula bennett, welfare - Tags:

I’ve blogged before about some of the issues with our social welfare system which have been getting attention, thanks to great people like Sarah Wilson at Writehanded.

Labour and the Greens have been fighting these fights too – though this being an election year, they’re getting even less traction than they normally would. Unfortunately, our only hope of a real change in the way the state treats beneficiaries depends on a strong progressive turnout at the election in September.

Take this revelation from the Greens: after hammering the Prime Minister in the House about the lack of support for newborn babies – if their parents are silly enough to be on a benefit in a time of 6% unemployment, that is – they found a directive had been issued to MSD ordering its Chief Executive (and thus its staff) to “consider” whether a person had a newborn when applying for hardship assistance.

It’s a classic National manoeuvre. Ask them a straightforward question like “is there support for all newborn babies in New Zealand?” and get a straightforward “Yes” – with several significant caveats that altogether add up to No.

The obvious point: having your child’s needs “considered” when you’re applying for additional assistance is a very long way from the straight-up cash-in-hand parental tax credit everyone else gets. It’s a maybe. It’s just part of another process which has nothing specifically to do with supporting children.

But more insidiously, I think you can make the case that telling WINZ staff to “consider” newborn babies’ needs makes things even worse.

No social security net worthy of the label should have to have it spelled out that newborn babies create extra stress and greater need for families who are already struggling. Even in the purest, most generous of systems, supporting newborn babies and their families isn’t an optional thing.

And we know very well – because everyone seems to know someone who’s got a terrible WINZ story or two – that our system is far from pure and generous.

This is a callous box-ticking exercise by a government which really, really does not seem to care if you’re struggling to feed your children. I just hope that people will start to see that those in our communities who are on benefits deserve every bit of support we can give them.

And even if we can’t shake off all the myths and misconceptions and prejudices, at least we can say that babies deserve a decent start in life, however poorly we think of their parents.

43 comments on “Considering newborns”

  1. Philj 1

    Callous, targeted and soo National.

  2. One Anonymous Bloke 2

    …if we can’t shake off all the myths and misconceptions and prejudices, at least we can say that babies deserve a decent start in life…

    No, the National Party cannot say that. Personal responsibility means other people’s children are not my problem.

    • Delia 2.1

      Tell that to Paula Bennett. I maybe a leftie, but I worked as a trainee nurse at 17, I did not drop babies on the state. I would have died. So who are the hypocrites here?

      • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1

        That comment is so bad it’s not even wrong. Duped by malicious right wing narrative much?

        • weka

          Funny. I couldn’t actually make sense of the comment.

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            “Dropping babies on the state” comes through loud and clear.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Neither can I.

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              Tell that to Paula Bennett = Paula Bennett as the M for SD owns the problem. A facile and frankly false observation.

              The middle bit = “I’m a self made woman” :roll:

              The hypocrites I’m not sure about, but I’m tending towards incoherent levels of English comprehension and a desire to imply hypocrisy because it sounds good.

              • weka

                Yep it was the bit about dying and the bit about who are the real hypocrites.

          • emergency mike

            At a guess I’d say that to ‘drop babies on the state’ is hip hop slang for shooting rival teenage drug pushers in New York. Hope that helps.

  3. srylands 3

    There will be no end to this crap. The answer is to repeal the Social Security Act, and introduce a Universal Basic Income of (say) $10,000 per year for everyone over 24. 18-24s get $5,000. Flat tax of 25%. Problem solved.

    No social welfare system. No benefits. No high EMTRs.

    No WINZ.

    No parental tax credits.

    Add on policies:

    Free tertiary education for three years FTE up to NCEA L7, (i,e a Bachelor Degree) with full fees after that.

    National Super at age 70

    Capital gains Tax of 10% on all real, realised, gains from all assets including family home.

    There you go. Get Labour to run those policies and I’ll vote for them. They would also win the election.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1

      Won’t address built-in fish-hooks cf: Piketty.

    • weka 3.2

      and the people that need more than $10,000 to live on?

      • One Anonymous Bloke 3.2.1

        Should have chosen to be born into wealth. Bad choices you see, Weka.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.2.2

        ie, everyone.

        • weka

          the assumption is that some people will work and earn more money that way. But in srylands vision, it seems like everyone can do that, which of course is not true.

          (his education and super policies are a bit daft).

    • Tracey 3.3

      Given all of that just who did you vote for in 2011 and which party has your votein 2014

    • Draco T Bastard 3.4

      I find it amazing that people believe that young people can live on less than what adults live on.

      They need the same food, the same level of clothing, the same transport, the same housing, etc etc and yet we always get governments and people insisting that young people be paid less because they’re young.

      • TheContrarian 3.4.1

        You got it backwards Draco. An adult can live on the same as young person, provided said adult wants to live in shared accommodation in a run-down flat (which was fucking fun when I was young lad). Generally an adult will want to earn more and level up.

        • Draco T Bastard

          The amount an adult is paid on welfare isn’t enough to live on. This means that they get to live in run down shared accommodation – just like the young people. The fact that the young get less for doing the same thing is nothing but discrimination.

          • TheContrarian

            “The fact that the young get less for doing the same thing is nothing but discrimination.”

            On welfare yes but in the workforce you generally don’t find a young person performing the same role as someone with 20 years experience.

    • vto 3.5

      That’s a start srylands, well done….

      but far from complete

      anything which adjusts the current wealth distribution model (and which takes too much of my money to give to the wealthy who don’t earn it – bludgers) so that it is more evenly spread is good.

      keep it up gosman.. I mean srylands

    • McFlock 3.6

      what does there need to be an end to: people getting the support they need?

    • Descendant Of Sssmith 3.7

      Make it the same rate rate as the single rate NZS and remove the age discrimination would be a better option.

      NZS has been shown to give us a very low poverty rate for the elderly – it can surely do the same for those younger.

      Then up the tax rates to pay for it.

      Can’t agree with a flat tax rate though unless we tax all businesses at a flat amount on gross income i.e, before expenses. Tax income from interest, dividends etc the same way and all overseas purchases of products by consumers.

      I’ve modified my thoughts recently on this to remove tax on working completely to remove the tax disincentive of employing people that businesses have. In reality my employer pays my paye so I have some sympathy for the business who actually employs staff competing against those who do not. net everyone’s salary off at the point you change to gross taxation so all business pay the same rate of tax without any other hidden taxation. GST buggers off as well and a myriad of other taxes.

      ACC levies for both workers and businesses however would remain.

    • Crunchtime 3.8

      This is most of an excellent idea.

      Trouble is, you’re missing the bits that are relevant to this article: newborn babies.

      I’d be inclined to:

      $3000 per year for children 0-18 – from the moment they are born paid to the parents or guardians.
      $6000 per year for 18-21 year olds
      $12000 per year thereafter – this is closer to the rate of NZ Super

      Plus MSD would still have to provide additional help for invalids and those with special needs.

      Even if that meant income tax of 30%, that’d be worth it.

      Nobody should be left begging on the street.

      Give all the incentive to work by removing all penalties for working, ie abatement of supplimenary income.

      Remove all penalties for NOT working because they are no longer necessary (not that they were ever necessary).

      • Pasupial 3.8.1

        Isn’t NZS set to a proportion of median wage? The problem with round numbers such as your $3/ $6/ $9K or the original [3.0] comment’s $5/ $10k proposal is that they’ll be wiped out by inflation. Srylands’ talent lies in his ability to make even a good idea (eg UBI) sound terrible (eg his rigid presciption at comment 3).

        The Green Party’s policy “emphasis on sufficiency, simplicity, universality” is one of the many reason’s I support them.

      • Descendant Of Sssmith 3.8.2

        A: Sorry elsewhere in the past I’ve argued for the return of universal family benefit.

        Totally support additional payments for children.

        B: I like Greens policy. Particularly the removal of the moralising approach the current government policies take.

        People need help not opprobrium. They need support not state paternalistic direction.

  4. Tracey 4

    Yup, the greens had the pm misleading the house again last week when he answered that newborns were taken into account and things were in place to account for them… Good work by Turei.

    Within a couple of days the ministry was sending directives to winz telling them to take into account any newborns.

    iow key talked out his arse again in parliament.

    But the speaker focuses on twitter rather than members misleading or lying to parliament.

  5. Lanthanide 5

    because everyone seems to know someone who’s got a terrible WINZ story or two

    There are large swathes of the population who don’t know anyone that deals with WINZ at all. They typically vote National.

  6. Will@Welly 6

    Its 2014. 100 years ago, the founders of the Labour Party were starring down similar problems.
    Roger Douglas/Richard Prebble et al, in one foul swoop have taken us back almost 100 years.
    Key is only finishing off the job. He sat there in amazement and watched, dumbfounded, that Labour swallowed so many fish-hooks between 1984 – 1990. Its credibility was shot.
    Karitane and Plunket were the first ports of call for most new mums. Children – babies – were the focal point of our society. We cared. We would sweat blood for our children, and not just our own children, but for all the children in our society.
    Can any Government be more depraved? John Key and his cohorts treat the future of this country as mere playthings, disposable. What sort of country have we become? A country ruled by the $$$$ !
    One can imagine Paula Bennett standing atop a hill, half crazed, stirring a pot, throwing babies in one at a time, all the while taunting their mothers. Nothing personifies genuine evil than Ms. Bennett!

    • weka 6.1

      it’s pretty scarey to consider that we’ve let this happen. We are a pot of frogs on the way to a slow boil.

    • Crunchtime 6.2

      I think you meant “Nothing personifies genuine evil LIKE Ms Bennett”, or “MORE than Ms Bennett”.

      I’d disagree, she’s just a sock puppet. Geniune evil would be forked-toungue Key, not to mention the owners of the media outlets that pander to the Nats and quote Key without reporting on or critiquing what he says.

  7. The real kicker is in the Green’s press release (linked from the post):

    “…there was no particular financial assistance designed to help families of newborn babies who were on a benefit, who make up at least 60 per cent of all babies in poverty.

    The big question is how to reduce the numbers of newborn babies being raised on benefits – that matters a hell of a lot more than whether the people producing them get extra money to cover their costs.

    • Pasupial 7.1


      Green Party Work and Employment Policy Point 2 addresses:

      Working towards a shorter working week; including the establishment of a taskforce to:
      investigate the economic and social effects of a 35-hour working week in New Zealand; and
      address barriers to a 35-hour working week, including the issues of over- and under-employment in a transition process, and suggest strategies to move those earning below average wages to a living wage.


      With a 12.5% reduction in hours worked per person (nominal 40 to 35 hours), even if the actual flow-on is only 50% then this should lead to a 6.25% increase in people employed; which in turn might lead to full employment.

      The basic principle of spreading the load appears sound to me, and would integrate well with a UBI. Governmental or other mediation would be required and there are some major hurdles to be overcome in implementation which is why Point 1b is:

      Establishing a high level commission into the future of work (integrating the development of vision and policy with respect to work (including paid and unpaid), income support and taxation).

      My point is that Green Party policies don’t exist in isolation of each other, and it is disingenuous to suggest that our compassion for those doing it hard means we have no plan to “reduce the numbers of newborn babies being raised on benefits”.

    • Lloyd 7.2

      If all beneficiaries got a living benefit, they would spend more. The economy would boom and there would be more jobs for beneficiaries to change their status to. Trickle up works. Pay beneficiaries enough and the total number of beneficiaries will decrease.

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