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Gordon Campbell on Nats’ welfare plan

Written By: - Date published: 10:36 am, August 12th, 2008 - 15 comments
Categories: benefits, national - Tags: , ,

Dog whistle politics to some, beneficiary bashing to others. But is there logic to National’s policy on benefits? Gordon Campbell asks:

Will John Key’s policy announcement on welfare this afternoon do much to resolve the problems it claims to address? Hardly…

It is as if National felt the need to beat up on beneficiaries somehow, and somewhere – and so it picked primarily on solo parents, the group of beneficiaries widely recognized as being in LEAST need of extra motivation to get off the benefit.

One angle I thought was interesting was a study done by the Ministry of Social Development which looked at the health (and mental health) status of sole-mothers. If they are already more likely to be sick then sending them out to work with penalties if they don’t is not likely to lead to good outcomes, for either the parent or the children.

And one question I was hoping to hear asked – what are the penalties planned for those who do not abide by the rules? And what happens if there are others (like children) living in the household?

There’s a fundamental difference in approach here with both sides arguing that the studies back their logic. However as Simon Collins suggests:

…there are other factors besides welfare in the breakdown of the traditional family, and forcing parents into paid work may not be the answer.

15 comments on “Gordon Campbell on Nats’ welfare plan”

  1. Crank 1

    I don’t like beneficiary bashing for cheap political gain but I can’t see the problem with asking DPB parents to work or take part in upskill training for 15 hours whilst their kids are in school.

    Some of the arguments presented about the negative effect on children of having a working parent “stressed out” by having to both work and bring up children is quite frankly very insulting to the large numbers of working parents out there.

  2. Dancer 2

    I thank my lucky stars that I have a partner to help me at home with our children – as they can truely run us ragged (even when they are being good!). i’ve seen a number of two parent households struggle with the reality of even 10 hours work. Certainly it varies, and the more skilled and in demand you are the easier it is – but getting to and from work (esp if you rely on public transport), walking children to school, spending time helping out in class w general reading/writing, NOT being late for pick up – i really have to question whether it’s practical to bring in a big stick when lives are already complicated. I would rather have parents invest time in the classroom and helping with homework, so by the time i retire we have a workforce that is capable of generating income for my nz super!

  3. Phil 3

    Dancer,

    A lot of single parents work, and bring up their children, and do all of those other things – for which they should be celebrated.

    But, the lives of beneficiaries are no more complicated than those doing the exact same parenting on minium wage. Why treat them as ‘different’?

  4. Matthew Pilott 4

    But, the lives of beneficiaries are no more complicated than those doing the exact same parenting on minium wage.

    I don’t imagine that’s true. A single parent with a minumim wage job will no doubt struggle – but they have employment, which is a start. They will have more money. They will, by defnintion, be employable. They will, also by definition, have the ability and means to work, to get to work, to manage their time so they can work, and have the freedom to work. None of those are a given with a solo parent on a benefit.

    I think ‘complicated’ isn’t the right frame of reference. Work will make someone’s life more complicated, but their personal circumstances dictate whether that complication is manageable or not.

    Those personal circumstances are the real factor under which someone may or may not be able to work – and this is where the two are ‘different’.

  5. Dancer 5

    thanks matthew – that’s a better description. it also matters what the penalties are for sole parents who don’t meet the criteria – and what effect that may have on others such as children, who get caught can get in the crossfire. A good summation of the potential damage is “National’s welfare policy would hurt the vulnerable children in society”, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) said today
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/4652747a6160.html

  6. Ari 6

    I suppose the good part of this is that they’ve seen some sense and let DPB benficiaries keep a bit more of their benefit money while working- which should help some keep afloat with part-time work if living costs keep going the way they are now.

    It’s kinda ironic when the first move from one of the big parties to help beneficiaries in years comes as part of National’s plan to play tough love with solo parents, rather than from Labour. =/

  7. Alistair 7

    “Some of the arguments presented about the negative effect on children of having a working parent “stressed out’ by having to both work and bring up children is quite frankly very insulting to the large numbers of working parents out there.”

    People’s situations can be quite different and such generalising may be short sighted. I am in full time employment but have spent several years looking after a child who suffered from bipolar disorder. He went to school like all other kids but unlike other kids keeping him inline was very difficult. Some parents may be blessed with average children but not all. If one chooses to work so one’s standard of living is better then that is an individuals choice. Money doesn’t but happiness but it is typical of our pathetic materialistic western society to assume it does. Is a child happier with all the latest toys or with more time spent with loving parents. Perhaps we have lost the point of life – perhaps we never knew it… perhaps we don’t even know ourselves Wake up people

  8. insider 8

    Gordon Campbell doesn’t like NAtional’s policy. Who’da thunk it?

  9. Roby110 9

    Phil said:
    But, the lives of beneficiaries are no more complicated than those doing the exact same parenting on minium wage. Why treat them as ‘different’?

    But, Phil, the Tory policy DOES treat them “different”. It says – “you – unlike other people – will not have a choice”.
    The thing that annoys me the most is hat there is very clear evidence that th vast majority of solo parents on benefits want nothing more than to get off the benefit and be self supporting. The evidence also indicates very strongly that the more we support a person raising children on their own the more quickly they move from benefit to being self supporting and the less likely they are to return to the state for support later.

    And in the end what are the government going to do if a parent refuses to obey this edict. Cut their benfit. To punish who? The kids.

  10. Greg 10

    The argument that potential benefits cuts (due to not fulfilling the working requirement) will impact negatively on children is not valid. You see, it is not the policy itself that is impacting upon children, but the actions of their parents who chose to ignore it. You cannot set policy to the lowest common denominator, that would make for a very depressing society. Its the hidden third variable, which does need to be addressed, but not at the expense of tolerating benefit bludgers (by this i mean genuine bludgers, those who can work). Instead of doing away with this policy on that basis we need to fix the problem at its roots – instead of simply fixing the symptoms, better education, more support (non monetary) for struggling families are but some ideas.

  11. Matthew Pilott 11

    Ari, that’s a good point – that rate is very low ($80) now, if there’s a clear benefit to doing this then it is something you’d think Labour should have looked at.

    The argument that potential benefits cuts (due to not fulfilling the working requirement) will impact negatively on children is not valid. You see, it is not the policy itself that is impacting upon children, but the actions of their parents who chose to ignore it.

    Those children are still entirely dependant on their parent’s income. It’s a valid concern that a blanket policy will negatively affect those children. Key has said that there are some exceptions to work out (as with all their ‘policy’, they are light on detail), so I will watch with interest, and hope that they are very well considered – the stakes are high.

    Also, as I said on another post, Labour’s policies are just what you say is required – free healthcare, childcare, apprenticeships and WINZ emphasis on training. These all help fix the problem at the root.

  12. Savage 12

    If you want someone to do something – such as a beneficiary getting a job or attending a seminar it is better to use a positive reinforcement rather than a negative punishment.

    The streamlining and privitisation that has occurred during the last 25 years has eliminated much of the skilled and semi-skilled labouring jobs that had sustained New Zealand’s working class. From rail to steel to manufacturing almost all these areas have been hit hard.

    You can’t expect people to do jobs that you wouldn’t do for wages that don’t really pay the bills.

    You can’t streamline people out of society – we are all in this waka together. John Key’s latest salvo at beneficiaries is exactly what it looks like – a well placed kick from possibly one of New Zealand’s richest delivered to that of the guts of New Zealand’s poorest.

    If you want to solve this problem then you need to be creative in finding a solution.Simply saying “You are not a productive section of society and we will punish you.” is mind bogglingly simplistic – Just like Mr Key.

  13. Pascal's bookie 13

    The way I see it, we can set up the system with one of two things as a focus, but not both.

    One way is to say that there is a need for welfare programs, and human nature is such that some people will try to free ride on that system. We should focus on eliminating these free riders.

    The other way is to say that there is a need for welfare programs, and that because it is a need, we should ensure that all who need it, get it.

    The first way attempts to eliminate giving the benefits to the undeserving (avoid false positives), at the cost of making things harder for those that need it.

    The second way attempts to make sure that no one who needs the assistance misses out on the benefit of it (avoid false negatives), at the cost of accepting a higher rate of free riders.

    Any system that tries to eliminate free riders will necessarily make the program more onerous in some way or another for those that need it, and will probably mean that some who need it won’t get it at all.

    Given that both approaches take the need for the program as a starting point, I think false positives are less important (and in the scheme of things, less costly) than false negatives, so I prefer the second approach.

  14. Anita 14

    One of the important things about the DPB is that it is intended to support the children. No-one (that I’ve heard anyway) argues that the children will cheat/act to become free riders, it is not a sensible analysis of their actions.

    So in the case of the DPB we must use the need analysis, no other analysis makes any sense at all.

  15. Savage 15

    Calling people ‘free riders’ when you have had more opportunities than them is unfair. If New Zealand society was a truly level playing field eg everyone had the same access to education, healthcare, and other resources then I would be all for penalising ‘free riders’.

    New Zealand isn’t a level playing field. People who think that this is true are really out of touch with what is happening in parts of our society.

    We are going to keep getting the same results if John Key gets his way and gives more funding to private schools.

    “After paying Lucinda’s school fees we only managed to make it to the Swiss Alps twice this year!”

    If he really wants to get people off of welfare then they need more opportunities to succeed in education and to make it out of the hole they are in.

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    It is disturbing that Relationships Aotearoa, a voluntary organisation set up in 1949 to help couples struggling with their relationships following the upheavals of World War II, may be forced to close, says Acting Spokesperson for the Voluntary and Community… ...
    3 days ago
  • An economy that is just working for some is an economy that is not working
    The National Party presents itself as a great manager of the economy, but if the economy is only working for some we really need to question that assertion. Alongside the perpetually elusive surplus, the levels of risk in our economy are… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    3 days ago
  • An economy that is just working for some is an economy that is not working
    The National Party presents itself as a great manager of the economy, but if the economy is only working for some we really need to question that assertion. Alongside the perpetually elusive surplus, the levels of risk in our economy are… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    3 days ago
  • House prices to a crack $1 million in 17 months
    The average Auckland home is on track to cost $1 million in 17 months’ time if nothing substantial is done to rein in soaring price rises, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “Auckland’s house prices have skyrocketed 63 per cent… ...
    4 days ago
  • Vital support services can’t be left in lurch
    The National Government has big questions to answer about how a provider of services to thousands of vulnerable New Zealanders is set to fold, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. Relationships Aotearoa which provides support and counselling to families, individuals… ...
    4 days ago
  • Treasury and IRD on a capital gains tax
    Both the Treasury and IRD have been advising the National Government on the benefits of a capital gains tax. Documents released to the Green Party under an Official Information Act request show that John Key has been selective with the… ...
    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    4 days ago
  • Charity legislation needs review
    It is unacceptable that the big corporate based charities claim  millions in annual income tax exemptions, while small community based and operated non-profit organisations  struggle to gain official charity status, Labour’s acting spokesperson for the Voluntary and Community Sector Louisa… ...
    4 days ago
  • John’s panic-Key response to housing crisis
    John Key needs to tell New Zealanders what caused his sudden change of heart that led to the Government’s scrambled and last-minute housing measures, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “The Prime Minister’s sudden rush of blood to his head followed… ...
    4 days ago
  • Keep our Assets Christchurch Campaign: An update
    I recently presented my submission to keep Christchurch Council assets at the Christchurch City Council’s public hearings on its 10 year plan on 13 May. The hearings are live-streamed and recorded so you can watch them on www.ccc.govt.nz. The Council’s… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    5 days ago
  • John Key finally admits there’s a housing crisis
    John Key’s weak measures to rein in the astronomical profits property speculators are making are an admission – finally – that there is a housing crisis, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “But yet again National is tinkering with the housing… ...
    5 days ago
  • Government stifles voices in CYFs review
    The Government’s exclusion of the Māori Women’s Welfare League in a panel on the future of CYFs is a cynical ploy to stifle views, says Labour’s Māori Development Spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta. “It's unbelievable that a significant review on the future… ...
    1 week ago
  • Speech to the Otago Chamber of Commerce
    Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today. It’s a pleasure as always to be back in the town that raised me. Growing up in St Kilda meant that there was one thing that was a big… ...
    1 week ago
  • Key can’t just be Prime Minister for Parnell
    John Key must show New Zealanders in next week’s Budget that he is more than the Prime Minister for Parnell, and is also the Prime Minister for Pine Hill, Putararu and Palmerston North, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. In… ...
    1 week ago
  • Stop the conversions
    This week, some Waikato locals took me and intrepid photographer Amanda Rogers on a tour of some  lakes and waterways in their region, and up to the massive dairy conversions in the upper catchment of the Waikato River. It… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • More regional jobs go in Corrections reshape
    News that 194 Corrections staff are to lose their jobs will have ramifications not only for them and their families but for the wider community, Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis says. Prison units at Waikeria, Tongariro and Rimutaka face closure… ...
    1 week ago
  • Government’s climate meetings off to a bumpy start
    On Wednesday, I attended a hui and an evening meeting that the Government had organised in Nelson as part of its climate change consultation tour, to support the Nelson community telling the Government to take meaningful action on climate change.… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    1 week ago
  • Taxpayers the only ones left feeling blue
    Ministry of Social Development bosses could have saved themselves thousands of dollars in consultants’ fees by providing staff with rose-tinted spectacles, Labour’s State Services spokesperson Kris Faafoi says. A report out today reveals the Ministry is spending over half a… ...
    1 week ago
  • Why are the regions still facing restrictions?
    Labour's Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford is questioning why the regions should continue to be saddled with LVR lending restrictions announced by the Reserve Bank today. “Labour has been calling for the regions to be exempted from LVRs for the best… ...
    1 week ago
  • The high costs of weak environmental regulation
    Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere is described on the Department of Conservation website as “Canterbury’s largest and New Zealand’s fifth largest [lake], and an internationally important wildlife area.” But the lake is also polluted by nutrients leaching from farms in the catchment.… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    1 week ago
  • Submissions to Wellington City Council on their Gambling Venues Policy
    Every three years Councils across the country are required to check that their gambling venue policies are still fit for purpose and they can choose to consult on their policy if they are thinking of making changes. Councils don’t have… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 week ago
  • Reserve Bank action shows Govt out of touch and out of ideas
    The Reserve Bank’s unprecedented measures today show it understands the serious risks of the overheating housing market – in complete contrast to John Key’s refusal to acknowledge the crisis, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. “The Bank is right to… ...
    1 week ago
  • Send us your snaps: 25 Years of the Green Party
    This year we've hit a milestone. We're turning 25.To help celebrate a quarter of a century, please send us your photos from the last 25 years of the Green Party Aotearoa New Zealand! Note: Photos must be jpg, gif or… ...
    1 week ago
  • 25 Years of the Green Party
    This year the Green Party sends 25. To help us celebrate a quarter of a century please send us you photos of 25 years of the Green Party!Photos must be jpg,gif or png and smaller than 2MB. If you are… ...
    1 week ago
  • Bay growth plan too little too late
    Today’s Bay of Plenty growth study from MBIE is another example of Government spin - lots of talk but little action, says Labour’s Regional Development spokesperson David Cunliffe.  “This is a region that desperately needs to develop the downstream processing… ...
    1 week ago
  • Government bows to ACC pressure
     The Government has finally buckled to pressure from Labour and the New Zealand public in making a half billion dollar cut to ACC levies, but the full benefits are two years away,” says Opposition Leader Andrew Little.  “$500 million over… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • False figures cloud Auckland transport facts
    The Prime Minister should apologise and issue a correction after both he and Transport Minister Simon Bridges have been caught out misrepresenting facts on Auckland’s transport spending, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. "Both John Key and Simon Bridges have… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Govt books confirm National can’t post surplus
    The last publication of the Government’s books before the budget shows National will break its promise of seven years and two election campaigns and fail to get the books in order, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The Government is… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • US state joins NZ with GE food labelling
    New Zealand has a similar law making the labelling of many GE foods compulsory, but the Government seems to let it slide.  Because the government has not monitored or enforced our GE food labelling laws since 2003, it seems the… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour Pays Tribute to Erima Henare
    “E ua e te ua tata rahi ana, Ko te hua i te kamo taheke i runga raa. No reira e te rangatira Erima takoto mai I roto I te ringa o Ihowa o nga Mano e moe e.” ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour Pays Tribute to Erima Henare
    “E ua e te ua tata rahi ana, Ko te hua i te kamo taheke i runga raa. No reira e te rangatira Erima takoto mai I roto I te ringa o Ihowa o nga Mano e moe e.” ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour Pays Tribute to Erima Henare
    “E ua e te ua tata rahi ana, Ko te hua i te kamo taheke i runga raa. No reira e te rangatira Erima takoto mai I roto I te ringa o Ihowa o nga Mano e moe e.” ...
    2 weeks ago

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