Written By: - Date published: 10:41 am, March 27th, 2013 - 55 comments
Categories: ACC, benefits, child welfare, families, greens, jobs, labour, nz first, paula bennett, phil goff, unemployment, welfare - Tags: jacinda ardern, mojo mathers
Yesterday, I watched a lot of the speeches, mainly by opposition MPs, in the committee stages (parts 1 and 2) of the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill. Green, Labour and NZ First MPs highlighted much of the evils of this piece of legislation.
Today on the Daily Blog, Sue Bradford has posted (“Destroying lives to win votes: National’s anti-beneficiary rampage continues“) an excellent summary of what the Bill does and doesn’t do. She outlines the punitive measures included in Social Security (Youth Support and Work Focus) Amendment Act, that passed last year, and summarises the latest Bill as follows:
The second bill going through this week adds to this by (among other things):
• Replacing a number of current benefits, including the Sickness Benefit, with one ‘Job Seeker Support’ category, subject to a wide range of compulsory work tests and sanctions if tests aren’t fulfilled to Work & Income’s satisfaction.
• Introducing a Work Ability Assessment …
• Adding even further sanctions to those who don’t meet Work & Income requirements, including drug testing. …
To add insult to injury, there is zero Government commitment to job creation either – decent jobs at decent wages being the best solution to unemployment and poverty. …
These changes to our welfare system are all about making extra profits for big business while shoring up National’s vote at the next election from people who just need to have a section of society to hate and despise. I hope you will join me and groups like Auckland Action Against Poverty in exposing and opposing this for the vicious game it is.
Jacinda Ardern, whose performances can be patchy, gave a couple of very good speeches for parts 1 and 2 in the committee stages yesterday. The first speech laid out a lot of the destructive aspects of the Bill, and the underlying government agenda. In the second speech, she exposed some of the dodgy medical assessment processes.
Ardern is concerned that one of the most important parts of the Bill, on medical assessments, provides no information on how the assessments will work (around 7 minutes in the video). She refers to a submission from CCS Disability Action, which expresses concerns about the UK-style contracting out of assessments. Labour has tabled an SOP asking for the processes to be used for medical assessments to be debated in the House before any changes are passed. Ardern says that “any government who denies our ability to do that, is a government that has something to hide.”
Ardern then refers to the worrying approach of Dr David Bratt, Chief Medical Adviser. She refers to a recent presentation by Dr Bratt: Ready, Steady, Crook: Are we killing our patients with kindness? Ardern says:
He openly spreads the notion that access to social security is bad for people’s health. Do you know what’s bad for people’s health Mr Speaker: an undignified system that doesn’t focus on people’s strengths and abilities to get back into work; a system that doesn’t focus on their wellness; a system that instead allows them to squander (?) in poverty without the means necessary to even ensure they are one day employable again.
She goes on to argue that Bennett’s “cruel to be kind” approach had been tried back in Ruth Richardson’s time, and it had failed resulting in an increase in harm and a rise in child poverty.
Ardern also made excellent points about the way Bennett’s focus is on demonising single mothers, and ignoring the fathers. She says she missed the memo on immaculate conception. She exposes the myth of families aspiring solely to a life on welfare, and the destructive impact of the work overload on case managers.
Nevertheless, Ardern continues to focus on getting people back to work, rather than the importance of social security for those unable to engage in paid work for whatever reason.
The Greens focused more on other aspects of the role of social security. Mojo Mathers focused on the barriers to paid employment for disabled people. She is concerned that the Bill is following the UK’s failed model that focuses on work assessment. She also argues against the social obligation aspects and their negative impacts on parents of children with disabilities.
NB: Phil Goff showed he can produce some very good speeches.