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Benefit numbers falling – through the cracks

Written By: - Date published: 12:04 pm, July 21st, 2015 - 40 comments
Categories: benefits, class war, poverty, welfare - Tags: , ,

Last Friday there was another of the Nats’ wee flutters of excitement on falling benefit numbers:

Number receiving benefits drops

The number of people receiving benefits is the lowest for any June quarter since 2008.

…Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said she was pleased to see the strong downward trend as Work and Income supports more people into work.

If indeed we were supporting people in to good jobs this would be good news. But in many cases we are not. This CTU press release is so important I am going to quote it in full:

Only half of people get jobs when leaving a benefit

“New data obtained by the CTU shows that less than half of people who come off a benefit are known to have obtained work,” says CTU economist Bill Rosenberg. “In 2014, MSD records show only 46% obtained work. We therefore cannot assume that falling benefit numbers means people coming off benefits found work.” The data was released to the CTU last month by the Ministry of Social Development under an Official Information request.

“Even adding on the 11% going into full time study means that as many as two out of five people leaving benefits aren’t going into work or study,” says Rosenberg.

“The release of information also showed that not only does the Ministry not know for sure how many of its clients found work, it has no way of knowing what quality of work they find,” Rosenberg says. “Do they get zero hour, casual, or low paid work, or go onto 90 day trials – or do they find good sustained jobs with prospects for skill development and rising incomes? The MSD’s 2013 annual report on the benefit system commented that a high proportion of people leaving a benefit returned within a year and listed as likely factors seasonal work, casual, low paid work or 90 day trials. Such comments are missing from the 2014 report even though it observed a high rate of clients returning to Jobseeker benefits despite improved labour market conditions.”

“Ministers of Social Development regularly make statements proudly announcing a reduced number of people on a benefit, saying more people are getting into work or study. The two do not necessarily match. Many people leave a benefit without getting work, and those who get work may be in insecure, poorly paid jobs,” Rosenberg commented.

“It also provides a strong caution regarding the so-called ‘Investment Approach’ which assumes that getting people off benefits is always good. It isn’t always good, particularly if people don’t find good quality jobs, and it ignores the good that comes of providing people with income at difficult times in their lives.”

So that’s what the Nats don’t tell you about their headline benefit figures. Two out of five driven off the benefit are going – apparently nowhere. Hence the increase in homeless, demand for foodbanks, beggars etc.

For those that are finding work, that doesn’t necessarily mean an escape from poverty, welcome to the world of the working poor (it’s an international phenomenon!).

Year 7 of the Brighter Future and counting.

40 comments on “Benefit numbers falling – through the cracks”

  1. G C 1

    Well, this is concerning… …I imagine many of these dispossessed people are turning to crime to make ends meet. It smacks of the French Revolution – though we haven’t gotten to bread riots or hyper-inflation yet.

    So what happens to these people who resort to crime? They often try escapism turning to drugs and alcohol. Eventually ending up in mental institutions or Serco ‘fight-clubs’?

    I had an unemployed friend staying with me a year ago. He now works full-time on a dairy farm out-side of Omaru. He wanted a job here in Christchurch, however he could only get part-time work. Working 20 hours per week – after benefit reductions for working, he was ONLY $14.00 better off each week.

  2. Pat 2

    like foreign investment if you refuse to measure it you dont have to answer awkward questions about the data…its the neo lib way

  3. lena 3

    Benifit numbers are falling as benificarys dont have a choice they either have to take up full time study or partime or casual work,I would love to see the stats on studylink most people now cannot get on a benifit due to being sack or some other reason there-fore the only way to secure a weekly payment from the goverment is to Study.
    The goverment has made WINZ look like the stats are falling but there kidding themselves they are just passing the buck to another agency

    • G C 3.1

      Well, studying is only going to increase peoples probability to find gainful employment.

      • McFlock 3.1.1

        Not if they’re not suited to it, or ready for it (e.g. kids are still too young so are massive workload while mum tries to study).

        It’s not a panacea.

        • G C 3.1.1.1

          Very TRUE McFlock – I totally agree. Mums are amazing and over-worked. Lets also remember Paula Bennett went back on the Domestic Purposes Benefit (or some such) because it was too hard working, studying and being a mother.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.2

        Not when we’ve got an economy designed to push people into unemployment while rewarding rich people for doing as little as possible.

        If we actually used our resources and people for the good of the nation we’d be able to:

        1. Build offshore wind-farms replacing all fossil fuel use
        2. Maintain and upgrade our rail network
        3. Have enough health services
        4. Ensure everyone was well fed
        5. Improve the nations housing

        The reason why we aren’t doing that is because a greedy few complained, loudly, that they couldn’t compete with the government doing stuff.

        • G C 3.1.2.1

          – Economy pushing people into unemployment
          – Rewarding the rich for doing very little
          – The greedy complaining to enable hoarding of wealth

          Not good, sound like the governance mind-set before the French Revolution. Though back then it was illegal for the aristocrats to work – now it’s illegal for the poorest in NZ society to work.

        • AmaKiwi 3.1.2.2

          @ Draco T Bastard

          +1

          Our most valuable underutilized resource is our people.

          I know some of them. They WANT meaningful work. But they won’t get it until they and we DEMAND it.

  4. Michael 4

    The government does not know what happens to people kicked of welfare benefits and it doesn’t care, either. Why not? Because its feedback tells it most New Zealanders don’t care, or even celebrate the prospect of other people living in utter destitution in our country. Just as long as it’s not them of course. It might help if we had a political opposition with the moral courage and intellectual grunt to devise a progressive and humanitarian alternative to New Right orthodoxy. Sadly we don’t have anything of the sort at present and I see no chance of a political movement of that type emerging in what remains of my lifetime (I’m 52, BTW).

    • G C 4.1

      I disagree Michael. Most New Zealander’s do not celebrate their fellow citizens living in destitution. Destitution is an extreme word. You’ll find WIDE-SPREAD destitution in countries where there are NO social services.

      Also, to say the opposition have no ‘moral courage and intellectual grunt’ is harsh. I believe they are too focused on ‘human rights’ rather than common-sense and a moral-compass that takes god seriously.

      Also Michael we do have alternatives to the ‘right orthodoxy’ – Internet Mana was an example of an alternative popup-party. New Zealand changes all the time. Closed Economy, Open Economy, Trade Deals, Social Policies, Race Relations (awesome compared to other countries), etc, etc.

      There is hope on the horizon, you have to be positive to start with. It’s near impossible to achieve anything when you’re negative – it shuts people down. The ideas and commentary we post here (TS) today is effecting change.

      • Chris 4.1.1

        Even the low number of comments on posts like this one about benefits and beneficiaries on TS is indicative of a general lack of interest in the subject. Labour spent nine years attacking beneficiaries, of course a political response to the climate generated during the Richardson/Shipley years. If the so-called left doesn’t care about what’s happened to our social welfare benefit system then who does?

        • G C 4.1.1.1

          Very good point Chris. I starting commenting on this article because I was taken back by the “lack of interest” also.

          • Mike the Savage One 4.1.1.1.1

            It is a sad state of affairs, as most Kiwis like to see themselves as the “Kiwi battler”, who does take action and avoid dependency on the state like the plague, no matter what shitty kind of conditions they have at their work. Others are self-employed “contractors” now, and those paying off their expensive homes feel more like a NZ version of “Donald Trump”, than look the less fortunate into the eyes.

            The mainstream media does also give this issue very little attention.

            On the very figures the CTU presented, I heard Duncan Garner talk to Bill Rosenberg from the CTU a couple of weeks ago. And while Rosenberg was trying to explain things, Garner swiftly cut him off after only a minute or so, claiming he had a busy schedule and many other interviews to follow.

            There was no further comment on all the data the CTU presented, same as the mainstream media do not report on many other reports, such as the people from a law department from Canterbury University, revealing how most people feel intimidated by WINZ and their staff. The only media that does still now and then (less than years ago) report on such matters is Radio NZ National.

            But it seems that they are less interested also. The media has time for lost kittens, for the royals, for the Kardashians, and much chit chat about trivial and bizarre topics, but no time to report on the unfortunate in this land.

            So the public hear little, many still have the “lazy benefit bludger” stereotype image on their mind, we had David Shearer tell tales about the sickness beneficiary painting his roof, and people do not care. Out of mind, out of sight, and prejudice prevails, about those that “dare” claim a benefit, paid from the taxes of the “hard working Kiwis”.

            • G C 4.1.1.1.1.1

              “benefit bludger” is an example of another tired-old-term. People that use such terms show their innate inability to reason.

              Having said that though, societies are often set up so the lower and middle classes fight each-other while the wealthy run away with the spoon.

          • AmaKiwi 4.1.1.1.2

            I detect powerful winds of change worldwide.

            In one week Greece, China, and Puerto Rico all experienced deflationary crashes. (Puerto Rico went bankrupt.)

            Deflation is when there isn’t enough credit available to pay off debts and expand the economy. I.e., small businesses are starve of cash (Greece), ever more jobs are gone, banks repossess homes.

            It was the same in 1929 and a dozen other depressions in recent centuries.

            Do we prop up the banks (again) or do we demand governments change the system so people can earn descent livings, care for one another, and rebuild their communities?

        • Kevin 4.1.1.2

          Yep, Labour did the same thing when in power. There is no doubt in my mind that National is “cooking”, for lack of a better word, the figures. It’s easy to do. You just make it so difficult for beneficiaries that they give up. Or, you look at how much effort they’re putting it to try and find a job and “decide” that they’re not doing enough and kick them off the dole.

          The way WINZ treats beneficiaries is appalling. Sure, there are some good ones but most case workers seem to think that it’s their own personal money they’re giving away. And most don’t seem to understand that if the law says a beneficiary is entitled to x amount of money then they have to give them x amount of money; there is no discretion.

          And the rot started way back when the cow with the dangly earrings took over.

          • Chris 4.1.1.2.1

            Rankin was merely a convenient vehicle for the agenda. It started, covertly, in 1984. That made Richardson/Shipley/Bolger et al feel they had licence to be upfront about things from 1990, and it was all downhill from there. The nats may have hoped that if they could keep the ideas alive for a generation or two there’d be no turning back. What they didn’t count on, perhaps, was the ultimate gift Labour handed to them in the meantime in the form of Helen “walk on bloody water” Clark’s reign of terror against the poorest of our poor. Without that sustained attack from 1999 to 2008 things may not have become so irreversibly bad, or at least seem like they have.

      • Capn Insano 4.1.2

        One doesn’t need to believe in a god to have a moral compass, indeed, you’ll find plenty of examples of religious people with questionable morals. Aside from that I could accept the gist of your post.

      • Michael 4.1.3

        Sorry GC – I call it the way I see it. No amount of middle-class sugar coating can cover up the fact that New Zealanders treat their most vulnerable people like shit and employ the machinery of government to do it for them. BTW, WINZ was abusing beneficiaries long before this government took office. Labour’s hands are far from clean.

  5. Tiger Mountain 5

    yep, bennie bashing remains kiwis second favourite sport, as the Milk Powder Republic of Fonterra crumbles maybe people will look up from their long blacks more often

    there are so many things crying out for attention with this issue, WINZ is no longer offering “social security”, instead a sadistic, humiliating punishment maze truly worthy of the title “Kafkaesque”

    Auckland Action Against Poverty (Bradfords and young protegees) plugs away as does Paul Blair in Rotorua, and scores of dedicated beneficiary advocates and several academics, but the average kiwi is unmoved, just pleased not to be ‘benefit sponger’

    still to be seriously considered by any party;
    • universal basic income
    • benefit abatement rates to ease jobseeker to work transition
    • easier access not automatic stand downs and cutoffs to benefits for people on contracts and part time work
    • benefit in your own name regardless of who you are “co-habiting” with, particularly affects laid off workers with a partner who has some work
    the above points are probably barely in most MPs consciousness let alone on their to do list

    according to the HHLS (Household Labour Force Survey) there have been more unemployed than there are people in receipt of “jobseeker support” for several years now which indicates there is something very wrong at WINZ and MSD, so yes coming to a street near you; car jackings, living rough and beggars galore

    • G C 5.1

      It’s concerning when DRAMATICLY MORE people are put before the courts charged with ‘benefit fraud’ than people charged with ‘company take invasion’.

      It’s also concerning that small businesses are left to fend for themselves in an economy actively giving big business a leg up.

      • upnorth 5.1.1

        can we have your stats pleased to prove this point

        • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1.1.1

          Dr. [redacted] will probably be attacked by right wing trash if I mention their name here. Various news agencies reported on the findings when they were published.

          The courts are far more lenient in one type of offending than the other. Can you guess which way the bias goes?

  6. The Fairy Godmother 6

    Many young people I know avoid going on the unemployment benefit and live with their parents who support them because ‘winz are quite nasty really ‘ as one of my friends put it. One woman rang about fees at our ece service and when I mentioned elegibility for a winz subsidy she indicated that she wouldn’t go near them as she “had had a lot of trouble with them”. I think winz staff as directed by their management and their minister have an attitude that anyone asking for help from them is a bludger who is probably trying to rip off the system. Shame! It isn’t as if there are lots of decent jobs out there which no-one wants to do. Hence the drop in benficiaries, anyone who has family who allows them to stay and be supported will avoid them.

    • sabine 6.1

      this is pretty much what i see happening. People only go to WINZ if they must. As long as family, friends etc will help out they don’t go to Winz.

      I went to WINZ two years ago, when i opened my business, trying to find out how to go about employing someone via Winz. I was looking for a Mum, as I have flexible hours to offer and would be able to work around someone who had a kid. OMGosh…the lady at the counter did not even pretend to speak to me, she told me to sit there until someone came to get me. Took over an hour for someont to come and get me. What stuck with me was teh fear in that waiting room, so thick you could cut it in slices and make sandwiches. Fear, screaming kids, stressed mothers, and no bathrooms for anyone. How can that actually be legal that there are no bathrooms for the people waiting?

      Silly really, I did employ a young mum in the end, but she did not come via Winz, she just walked in the door and she still works with me.

    • G C 6.2

      Oh WINZ – it’s a tired-old-name for a tired-old-system. Split it two – halve the WINZ beast!

      Start two new departments.

      Department 1. Deals only with sickness-beneficiaries, invalids and the medically dependent. WINZ would consolidate it’s current services an specialise with the afore mentioned cliental.

      Department 2. Deals with Job Seekers. This department would primarily act as a ‘recruitment agency’ dealing direct with employers. Also this department would pay benefits (watered down ‘universal living payment’) to it’s clients.

  7. keyman 7

    is it any wonder saw-en off shot gun application was made or pensioner carrying out ram raid with the intention to burning the place down frustration and difficulty and anger is a path way to tragic outcomes anger should directed at those who make the rules not those forced to follow bad policy of course there is always twats in any organisation that are in desperate need of an attitude readjustment.

    • G C 7.1

      Let’s not be too quick to put the boot into WINZ Staff – some, maybe most do a wonderful job with the resources they have. I’m sure their hands are often proverbially tied.

      It’s awful when desperate people turn violent. The horrors you’re alluding to ‘keyman’ were horrific. People often embrace the spirits of lawlessness and rebellion when policies and the jackboot of the law is consistently oppressing them.

      If people want political change, they need to start writing to their MP’s and if that doesn’t work… …VOTE, yes VOTE – that’s not to say beneficiaries don’t vote – I’m sure many are quite civic-mind.

  8. Mike the Savage One 8

    Attempts have been made to obtain figures on some outsourced services, such as the “mental health employment service” (MHES) and “sole parent employment service” (SPES), but MSD have only provided some figures, while simply ignoring other questions or parts thereof.

    There is no information made available on how many of those referred to contracted providers offering the so-called MHES, have actually been put into actual jobs, and remained in them.

    Given the questions were rather clear, one must presume, MSD is reluctant to present the true figures, and has an interest in forcing the requester to try and find some needed help from the under-resourced and over-worked Ombudsman. Complaints to the Ombudsman can take months, until they are even just being looked at and passed to an investigator. It can take a year or two for a complaint to be dealt with. That way MSD can shift any OIA request into the future, and by the time the Ombudsman may tell MSD to present the requested information, it will be worthless, as totally out of date.

    Study the post found under this link to learn more:
    https://nzsocialjusticeblog2013.wordpress.com/2015/04/10/mental-health-and-sole-parent-employment-services-msd-withholds-o-i-a-information-that-may-prove-their-trials-a-failure/

    Here are the OIA responses providing only very limited information, ignoring much of what was actually asked for:
    https://nzsocialjusticeblog2013.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/msd-oia-rqst-mhes-waa-other-support-services-issues-reply-anon-26-02-2015.pdf

    Here is an earlier response:
    https://nzsocialjusticeblog2013.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/msd-o-i-a-reply-d-power-mhes-waa-information-complete-24-04-2014.pdf

    And this may explain why now even many sick and disabled are driven into whatever kinds of jobs, rather than get treatments and benefits that they need:
    http://nzsocialjusticeblog2013.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/designated-doctors-used-by-work-and-income-some-also-used-by-acc-the-truth-about-them/

    http://nzsocialjusticeblog2013.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/work-ability-assessments-done-for-work-and-income-a-revealing-fact-study-part-a/

    http://nzsocialjusticeblog2013.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/work-ability-assessments-done-for-work-and-income-a-revealing-fact-study-part-d/

    What they are doing is to some degree following the disastrous “reforms” in the UK, and while they may be a bit slow in implementing new measures, it still affects many people, who are driven off benefits.

    Harsh pre-benefit obligations, and many other requirements that clients of WINZ now face are tough, and those not participating will have sanctions imposed, cutting or stopping benefits. Many cannot even bother going to WINZ anymore, as they see no point in it, and hate the questioning and harassment they face.

    Good on for the CTU to have done that research and published this revealing data!

  9. Stuart Munro 9

    A lot of the folk on benefits can’t afford to keep au fait with the internets. The power is hard enough. And they lack confidence – I didn’t venture on opinion columns & such until I self-employed.

  10. Lloyd 10

    The economic damage caused by people who have no income not being able to spend the money they don’t have does not seem to enter the neo-liberal mind.
    If you sell basic items from a shop to a population where everyone has enough money to buy basics, you will be a much more successful retailer than selling identical products in a community where only half the population can afford the basics.
    Supermarkets, The Warehouse and other large retailers must be hurt when the average income of the poorer sections of our community have less money. Denying benefits to a growing group of New Zealanders is an attack on those supermarkets, The Warehouse and the local dairy. It is an attack on GDP. It is an attack on taxes, because the supermarkets and the Warehouse et al all will have lower profits.
    Overall kicking people off the benefit when they have no decent job to go does not make good economic sense. It will not balance the budget in the long term as those denied income will usually end up costing money elsewhere as they get sick from poor nutrition or turn to crime and have to be kept at her majesties pleasure.

    • G C 10.1

      What you’re really talking about Lloyd is the ‘velocity of money’ (number of times one dollar is spent to buy goods and services per unit of time). Too much money has no velocity – it’s simply speculated on property.

      Money that should be flowing through the economy creating new industry and employment opportunities is wasted and hoarded. Wealthy Aucklanders are fools if they think selling houses between each-other at increased prices is a formula for sustained prosperity.

  11. Sable 11

    Yes indeed. Off the benefit and cast into a pit of poverty, relying on family for help (who may be in no position to offer it but have no choice) and no doubt in some cases suicide.

    The disgusting face of the callous “new” New Zealand the Nat bottom feeders and their repellent supporters have imposed on this country.

  12. Keith 12

    This only continues the well established pattern of hiding the ugly reality amongst what seems to be positive news on the face of it-statistics. Just like the dodgy Crime stat’s amongst others.

    It also doesn’t help the rotten odour of dishonesty that permeates this government, with every announcement or initiative from the PM down. No sane person would take anything said at face value from this lot or their helpers, well except perhaps a large number of the mainstream corporate media!

  13. Smilin 13

    With the spin hype and general ineptitude this govt will go on makin fudge till it dies a natural death
    People know the truth but with a govt of disinformation we will keep paying Crosby Textor along with the band of blogger bludgers that the PMs office keeps in a job as we head towards summer and watch the Nats buried head first in the sand as we try to enjoy, well will there be a holiday this year ?

  14. Charles 14

    On the upside, if a government wanted to create the social conditions where people actively overthrew a government, then the way they’re doing it would be recommened. Not even private prisons could house them all. Eliminate the middle-man: Occupy parliament.

  15. Russell 15

    Having registered and seeking the Job seeker benefit (after completing their application process from hell), I was not eligible due to partner’s income. So no job, no income at all.
    I wonder what the stats are for the number who are not eligible or who don’t complete the application. And no one is following up to see whether I have got work.

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