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Ambitious for beneficiary-bashing

Written By: - Date published: 11:36 am, August 11th, 2008 - 40 comments
Categories: benefits, john key, national, same old national - Tags: ,

That nice man, Mr Key, the one who says the old Left/Right divide is over, that he’s a new man with a new (ambitious) vision for New Zealand has rolled out an unprecedented and exciting policy today: beneficiary bashing.

At present, we have a world-leading benefit system. By investing in staff, WINZ has become more than a cheque-issuing service, it actively helps people into training and into work when those are appropriate choices given individual circumstances – the results speak for themselves. National will abolish that and instead (in a move one could almost term ‘Nanny State’) implement a one-size-fits-all programme, requiring all people on the DPB to enter work or training training once their youngest child reaches 6. A couple of issues off the top of my head: the DPB gives women the freedom to leave abusive situations – they can have the money and time to raise their children alone, National’s policy will be a barrier to that if the children are over 6; a person on the DPB doesn’t necessarily need skills training; DPB numbers are falling from 113,000 in 1998 to 96,000 today; 60% of DPB recipients are caring for a child under 6; many recipients are already in skills training or work (20% have some income on top of their DPB) .

Now, even if you do think there are legions of women who are bludgers and would rather raise a kid on $250 a week than work, there’s the rather serious problem that National’s previous attempts at beneficiary bashing have done nothing to reduce benefit numbers and expenditure. (sources: RBNZ, Stats, MSD)

It’s important to remember, this policy isn’t really about making a better benefit system, it’s about whipping up anti-beneficiary sentiment (‘if it weren’t for them, I could have bigger tax cuts!’) to get votes. Like all National’s policy, at least the stuff it has made public, this beneficiary bashing is an election strategy, not a governing strategy.

[PS. It was only a matter of time before some unimaginative hack referred to the secret agenda recording as ‘recorder-gate’ or ‘cocktail-gate’. Tracy Watkins didn’t disappoint, any more than usual.]

40 comments on “Ambitious for beneficiary-bashing ”

  1. Felix 1

    Tacking “gate” on a word to denote a scandal demonstrates such intellectual poverty it usually stops me from reading further.

    The last acceptable use was “Whitewater-gate” which was a fairly decent pun on the placename related to the scandal. Everything since has been quite simply retarded use of language.

    As for the benny-bashing, it’s just business as usual. I notice that Key expects parents on the DPB to work 15 hours a week for no more than $100 without cutting the benefit – roughly $6.66 per hour or a little over half of the minimum wage.

  2. ants 2

    Felix, thats still way more than they are entitled to under Labour – get your facts right buddy.

  3. Phil 3

    “the results speak for themselves”

    Those would be the results that show, by your own graphs, that three terms of Labour government have failed to improve the incomes of those at the lowest income decile – where hoseholds on benefits tend to reside.

    Labours answer, thus far, seems to be “we’re going to do everything exactly the same as now, and somehow the result will be different”.

  4. vto 4

    Sure Mr Pierson, it is standard vote-attracting fare. Just like… um… lets see;

    rich prick bashing.

    asian bashing.

    whipping up crap about secret agendas.

    ‘privatisation’ bashing.

    chinless scarf-wearer bashing.

    american bashing.

    etc etc etc

    ffs, you offload more double standards than anyone else on here.

  5. Phil you’re talking about this post: http://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=2419 The graphs show that incomes in the lower deciles fell under National rose under Labour faster than the upper decile incomes. the exact opposite of what you are saying. I might just start editing comments like yours with a link to the facts because otherwise they’re a waste of everyone’s time.

  6. IMHO VTO

    Any policy platform containing privitization deserves to be bashed.

  7. Scribe 7

    SP,

    By investing in staff, WINZ has become more than a cheque-issuing service…

    Yep. Nothing like someone telling a beneficiary to “F@%k off”

    http://blog.greens.org.nz/2008/08/06/beneficiaries/

  8. r0b 8

    whipping up crap about secret agendas.

    What crap? The Nats are saying one thing to the public and another amongst themselves.

    Their real agenda is the same as it ever was – flogging off sate assets, restricting the rights of workers, and beneficiary bashing. Caveat emptor.

  9. vto 9

    ok then Policy Parrot I expect to see you bashing Labour for…

    using private contractors for public hospital surgery…
    using private contractors to build schools and prisons and etc…
    using private landlords to provide govt office space…
    introducing PPPs..
    allowing the continued privatisation of the provision of food and shelter…

    Get real PP, this govt, and every govt since whenever except perhaps the USSR and Cuba, uses privatisation. They can’t operate without it. It is how it is done that is important, not the fact of it being done.

    Privatisation is not the big bogey that Clark et al make out with their bashing.

  10. vto 10

    Hi rOb, having read and followed and thought about this I don’t see any ‘secret agenda’. Its been done to death I know, but give me one example of what you think proves a secret agenda.

    (I probably sound like a true blue nat the way I go on somethimes. I’m not, tho I tend more to their policies.)

  11. r0b 11

    I don’t see any ‘secret agenda’.

    Gotta run vto, later perhaps. But ask yourself why this secret agenda thing got so much attention and had such a big impact – far beyond what the recorded words themselves say. It’s because the seeds fell in fertile ground. Everyone knows it’s true…

  12. vto 12

    rOb I think that impact is due to other factors. Unfortunately or otherwise for the nats. But there is no proof of any secret agenda. The nats would have to have rocks in their heads to even think about trying on policies that were not disclosed to the public. The party would instantly self-combust given past indiscretions – and it is those past indiscretions that I guess provide that fertile ground you refer to.

  13. roger nome 13

    Nice analysis Steve. Have completed an analysis of this press release over at my blog also.

    http://rogernome.blogspot.com/2008/08/nats-welfare-policies.html

  14. Anita 14

    vto,

    If National were to win an outright majority and within the first 6 months do one or two things which were clearly inconsistent with its pre-election commitments, do you really think it would “self-combust”?

  15. infused 15

    “The outcome of this will be that stressed out single mothers and fathers with multiple children ( some sick and requiring full-time care) people in their care, will have more pressure added to their lives, and that pressure will be passed onto the dependants in the household in negative ways.”

    Nome, how do you even come to that conclusion? You trying to spin this with rivers of emotion? Can read right through it.

  16. vto 16

    Anita, maybe I put that the wrong way. What I meant was the electorate would go crazy at them, which would lead directly to self-combustion. Something on the scale of the 1990 superann manouevre. Or maybe not even that big. There is a nervousness out there about the nats not sticking to its promises. Key and others would have to recognise that and avoid it like the plague. Surely.

  17. roger nome 17

    Infused:

    Have you read the whole post? I’ve provided an argument to back that up.”Oh, and kicking the weak for no positive gain will elicit an emotional response from most decent human beings. I’m no different.

  18. Felix 18

    ants: Nonsense. Under a Labour govt single parents on the DPB are not required to work. Under the Nats (anagram of your name) they’ll be working for peanuts.

  19. “Steve” – I would have thought you would have been outraged, nay, incandescent at the PM and the Greens slagging off a policy which will allow beneficiaries to earn an additional 25% before the abatement on their benefit kicks in – a figure that hasn’t been adjusted in the almost nine years that Helen Clark has led the government,

    http://keepingstock.blogspot.com/2008/08/helen-clark-betrays-low-paid.html

    [“Inv2” I support lifting the abatement threshold (which will increase spending on the DPB by 1% incidentally) doesn’t mean I have to support the rest of it. SP]

  20. insider 20

    why are single parents any more stressed and likely to suffer than couples both working with similarly aged children who have to take time off when they get sick? I don’t get the significance.

    I just can’t understand how you could get upset about people who are having their lives funded by the state being expected to give a little back in terms of time.

    I know a single mum who put herself through medschool with 4 children. If she could do that I can’t see a couple of hours a day as a massive imposition on most single parents. Many mothers I know are already doing that and more at their local playcentre or kindy or schools.

    creepy catptcha superior cashier

  21. slightlyrighty 21

    Are any of you aware that a solo parent with 2 school age children renting a 3 bedroom home, working 20 hours at MINIMUM WAGE, with the assistance of Working for families would be $267 a week better of with regard to net income than a solo parent who chooses to exist on the DBP alone?

    Is it too much to ask for a person, who having no children in the house for 6-7 hours a day, to work perhaps for 4-5 hours a day for 4 or 5 days if possible?

    Would the extra money be useful? Given the recently passed act to make work more accessible for those with parents, and the obvious benefits to not only the employer, but to the beneficiaries well being, and their families? not to mention the community at large?

    Is it wrong to ensure that those living on the generousity of the state have a genuine need, and that those who can be weaned off state assitance to self sufficiency are helped to do so?

  22. Joanna 22

    Do reporters realise “watergate” was not a scandal about water?

  23. slightyrighty. Are you aware of the reasons DPB parents give for not working? Are you aware that 25% of DPB children have a long-term disability? That 29% of DPB beneficiaries identify their health as a barrier to working and 22% identify their children’s health as a barrier? Are you aware that 20% work already?

    The question isn’t whether working or training can be good for some families on the DPB, the question is whether it makes sense to make them complusory. It’s obvious that working is not a viable option for all.

    Since when did the Nats become the party of complusion?

  24. Quoth the Raven 24

    vto – There is a difference between using private contractors and privatisation. Using private contractor to construct a prison is different from selling off that prison. The same with using private landlords to provide government space, that’s not privatisation. It’s good to see your concerned about privatisation though. One note on the secret agenda thing that I making on another blog: Shortly before the Bill English tape came out John Key said “National wants to offer New Zealand families certainty about the future of the Working for Families system. That’s why we intend making no change to it.” Then on the tapes you have Bill English saying “So we’re sitting here saying the punters are keen to keep it. They’re facing a recession. The last thing we want is to spend the whole election campaign with families of four on TV saying “Mr Key’s taking money off us’. You can’t do that. So later on we’re gonna have to have a bit of a sort out. Yeah, we’re gonna do something, but we can’t do it now.”
    So one is saying publicly that there will be no change to WfF and the other is saying privately that there will be change. That is deceiving the public.

  25. higherstandard 25

    SP

    If you take the the Nats backgrounder at face value …

    “The system of work obligations also has built-in safeguards. Work and Income already has the discretion to exempt parents from work obligations, if, for example, they are caring for a child with a physical or intellectual disability, or a chronic or recurring illness.

    We will ensure that this discretion is exercised in a compassionate way and takes into account a sole parent’s individual circumstances.
    countries.”

    Perhaps worth a full critique at a later date

    http://national.org.nz/files/2008/benefits_backgrounder.pdf

  26. readthenspeak. 26

    Steve, are you aware that WINZ staff already possess the discretion to waive obligations to seek work in the scenarios you outline and that the National background paper says it will continue that policy? Where’s the compulsion coming from? Not National. It can only come from WINZ case managers.

  27. insider 27

    Steve the policy specifically excludes those on DPB who are supporting sick or infirm from work obligations.

    The question I have is, does this 15 hours only apply to school weeks? ie does it not count during holidays?

  28. doug 28

    Those in state houses will lose 50% of the additional income in increased income related rent.

  29. 2_dead-dogs 29

    SP. National are not a ‘party of compulsion’.

    You do not have to do these things if you do not want to recieve a benefit.

  30. slightlyrighty 30

    Steve. This policy would require a person to work if able, or to undertake training to eventual work if able.

    There is currently no such obligation to do so.

    Some questions.

    Of the 22% that identify their children’s health as a barrier to employment, is that a different subset to the 25% of DPB children that have a long-term disability or are we just listing the same people twice?

    Of the 29% of DBP recipients who cannot work because of their own health, Have WINZ addressed what they are capable of? Is there an effort to discover what the issues are? and if they are incapable of working, how do they run a household?

    These are generalisations I know, but is there a way that the state services can work together to alleviate these concerns?

    And yes I am aware that some mothers and fathers on the DPB work. I work with solo parents.

    But what National is proposing is a long way from the beneficiary bashing that you have purported it to be.

  31. 2_dead-dogs
    August 11, 2008 at 3:39 pm
    SP. National are not a ‘party of compulsion’.

    You do not have to do these things if you do not want to recieve a benefit.

    Of course is complusion, its not a case of wanting a benifit, its needing a benifit so they dont starve to death. Obviously your far to detached from the real world to understand this.

  32. vto 32

    QtR, do you not think those sort of discussions go on always inside parties? Amending and adjusting policy to suit the electorate and the parties ideas on what works? I saw no mention that any changes would be introduced without public consultation or mandate. In fact, Lockwood Smith specifically stated that the public would need to support them and they would work towards that.

    Which just highlights the high speed spin that has been plastered all over this by labour.

    Look, I aint no nat member or supporter, I just do not see proof of a secret agenda. None has been provided.

  33. Phil 33

    Steve,

    Thanks for the link – it was the one I was thinking of.

    You’ll note that in my first comment I was talking about:
    “incomes of those at the lowest income decile – where hoseholds on benefits tend to reside”

    Under National, they went down – no argument from me.

    Under Labour, they went up 5% – in six/seven years… whoop-de-do, let’s go and buy a Mercedes!

    This is SIGNIFICANTLY LESS than the rest of the bottom half deciles improvement in income. Labour has been responsible for growing income dispairity not between rich-and-poor, but between poorest-and-everyone-else. Nationals policy may not be the silver bullet, but neither is Labours.

    Maybe you should let me edit your posts, because showing data and explaining half the story is a waste of everyone’s time.

    [I agree that benefits should have gone up faster, which is the only way the income of the bottom decile could have risen faster. But that’s not National policy, it’s Green policy. And 5% in real terms over 6 years might not seem much to you but it’s better than going backwards like under the Nats. SP]

  34. Phil 34

    Steve,

    A 5% increase when everyone else has gone up 10-15% is a BAD thing. I would personally agrue it’s just as bad as the falling income scenario in the 90’s.

    Why? Because when you have a growing income dispairity from rich to poor, the increased demand from the ‘rich’ is for a different set of goods and services – you don’t find a lot of competing demand pricing anyone out of the market.

    Under the 2000’s result, there is a real risk those at the bottom end ARE being priced out of essential goods and services because those in the next income bracket up are demanding mroe of the essentials, and not a new car.

  35. roger nome 35

    “Steve. This policy would require a person to work if able, or to undertake training to eventual work if able. There is currently no such obligation to do so.”

    SR:

    The Labour Party-led Governments have offered huge incentives for welfare-dependant parents to get into work, such as Working for Families (which effectively removes all tax on work for these people), and heavily subsidised day care for pre-school aged children. These polices, along with a buoyant labour market have lead to a huge decrease in the number of people receiving the DPB, and now, less than half of the people who currently receive it, have been doing so for over a year.

    So Labour has offered the carrots, and it’s working for everyone. Now National wants to step in with a stick.

    Successive Labour-led Governments have retained National’s benefit reforms, and have continued to increase benefit levels according to CPI, rather than index them to average earnings, or something similar. So equality isn’t a consideration in either main party’s welfare policy any longer.

    As a result, people on a benefit are surviving on a bare subsistence income, and are excluded from participation in mainstream society. So it’s no surprise to find out that virtually no one remains unemployed for long if they have a choice. In fact, page 82 of the 2007 labour market report shows us that only 0.5% of the working age population have been unemployed for more than 6 months.

    So, the people that have been on the DPB for an extended period, are likely lacking options. They have good reasons, and probably don’t enjoy their position very much. National’s policy of compulsion is going to be forcing people who are already enduring a situation of considerable hardship, into a position that’s so undesirable, they choose their current position over it.

    As justification for its attack on solo parents, National decries NZ’s low sol-parent employment rate (44%), whilst celebrating the success of the Nordic countries, which have comparable figures of 70-80%. See page 7 of the background paper . What National doesn’t reveal is the fact that, these results have only been achieved through a generous welfare state, which provides very cheap day-care ($50 per-week in Sweden) and long periods of paid maternal leave (13 months at 80% of total normal pay). These of course are policies that National wouldn’t dream of introducing, so it’s a bit hypocritical for them to be citing these countries as success stories.

  36. “The Labour Party-led Governments have offered huge incentives for welfare-dependant parents to get into work”

    Try being a struggling father bringing up children on peanuts rogered gnomer, you wouldn’t know anything about the poverty trap !!
    WINZ are guilty of unlawful gender discrimination and it WON’T change with John Wee at the helm !!

  37. It is not benefit bashing to want people to better themselves, its not benefit bashing to make it harder to stay on the benefit, its not benefit bashing to trying and get people on a benefit in to work programmes.

    Its benefit bashing to say to them “You don’t have to do a work programme, its not your fault that you haven’t found a job in six months, its not your fault you haven’t got a job, but don’t worry Aunty Helen will look after you and save you from that big bad WHITE man who is rich”

  38. Savage 38

    I see you put a high value on the colour of peoples skin BrettDale.

  39. David 39

    Born in the muldoon era I grew up in south auckland, a suburb called otara.

    Muldoon failed to address family violence with his term, he was too busy thinking globally and “thinking big”.

    As a result I came away from Otara with bronchiectasis, several allergies, a couple of congential defects with my health deteriorating to the point where now I have a couple of eye diseases, an oral disease and osteoarthritis accompanied by seizures, post traumatic stress and a muscle disorder.

    The compensation we get for failure of the national party (or labour in recent times for that matter) to respond? $230.00 per week.

    We have had muldoonism, rodgernomics, the mother of all budgets and now with key we have darwinism.

    Everyone out there is complaining about tax’s the cost of living, but 20 years ago a basic benefit was the equivelent of 75% of minimum wage. today that sits at just over 55% of minimum wage with everyone wanting the proposed $15.00 an hour taking us to what the equivelent of 48% of minimum wage.

    Remember that the ministry od social development answers to no one, they are one of the only branches of government left allowed by law to use descrimintory legislation, one of the only branches for which government fails to provide an advocacy service and are also well known for not providing full disclosure on cost entitlements to clients, a case manager as an example can decline to help you on costs even when you go with a doctors letter, and they arent trained medically at all.

    And remember that they only pay 80% percent of what they believe your actual costs to be with limits on the amount you can claim overall.

    Think about it people the ones you know and love try suriving on this when they are sick, when they are in need and many of you spend more than this on entertaining yourselves each week and still want more breaks from the government.. I really question who the moochers are here.

    National ransoms the country after stripping all assests leaving as with no asset base to build on for the future and they do this every time, borrow, put us in debt and then we throw labour back in to fix it up again.

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