Talk about bereft of ideas, the currency is yo-yoing, the housing bubble is re-inflating, wages are falling, jobs are still being lost in large numbers, the oil price is back above $80 but what’s the Finance Minister Bill English spending his time on? Some good old-fashioned beneficiary bashing.
English announced there will be new measures to get people off the Invalids’ Benefit yesterday. He claimed that “effectively we have 80,000 people where officially the welfare system has said they won’t work again” on the Invalids’. Not so, in any given year 10% of people go off the Invalids’ benefit.
The people on the Invalids’ are seriously unwell. 30% have psychological or psychiatric conditions, another 13% are intellectually disabled. There is no suggestion of ‘bludging’. There isn’t a ‘blow-out’ in the numbers on the Invalids’ either, it’s increasing just a touch above population growth due to the fact the population is aging (most people on the Invalids’ benefit are older – 72% over 40, 35% over 55).
Targeting these people will not save huge amounts of money, either. The average invalid beneficiary gets about $12,000 a year. To put that in perspective, we, the taxpayers, spent $50,000 in just the last three months paying for National ministers’ girlfriends overseas’ trips.
It remains to be seen what English is actually proposing to do to people on the Invalids’ but I won’t be surprised if the measures are actually pretty minor for all the hype – a trend from this government that talks big but delivers small (you know how many cars the Boy Racer Bill will crush? – fewer than 10 per year).
Whatever he does, the result is bound to be insignificant savings in government spending in return for more pressure on the incomes of the most vulnerable. Not the kind of stuff I would have thought the Finance Minister should be treating as a priority in these times.
Lastly, on benefits in general. For all National’s lies about benefit numbers going up under Labour, their record so far has been much worse. Not only have numbers on the dole tripled, the number of sickness beneficiaries skyrocketed by 17% in just the last year, fuelling the suspicion that National is trying to mask the number of unemployed by shifting people off the dole.