It has always troubled me how recently beneficiary numbers have been dropping at the same time that unemployment is increasing.
Anthony Robins wrote this in January of this year and it is clear that his analysis is increasingly true.
What we do know for sure is that National have created an environment for beneficiaries that is so nasty and so distorted, that doctors are being advised to consider welfare a “debilitating drug“. Make a system punitive enough and of course the numbers using it fall.
And this week he noted National’s crowing about a further reduction in beneficiary numbers and Anne Tolley’s celebration of the strong downward trend.
National’s hostility to anyone receiving a benefit, as long as they are under the age of 65 years, has been demonstrated time and time again. For instance policies adopted earlier this year to cut benefits if there was an arrest warrant in existence has the potential of making families lives really grim.
And the evidence that the system is not working is becoming very evident. From Radio New Zealand this morning:
In the year to the end of June 2015, 46 Work and Income staff were seriously assaulted, and 413 beneficiaries trespassed for threatening behaviour, figures released under the Official Information Act reveal.
In the 2013/14 financial year, 22 WINZ staff were assaulted and 163 beneficiaries trespassed.
Last September, Ashburton Work and Income staff members Peg Noble and Leigh Cleveland were killed and another was injured when they were shot at their workplace.
A 49-year-old man, Russell John Tully, is facing charges.
Since the Ashburton attack, an extra 250 security staff have been employed at Work and Income offices, and a tougher line taken towards abusive and violent behaviour.
Is this increase in unruly behaviour a random occurrence or evidence of increased stress and pressure on those at the bottom of the pile? Carmel Sepuloni has injected some realism into the debate.
Labour Party social development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni suspected the increase in attacks was a sign of desperation.
She said the minister had underestimated the pressure beneficiaries were under.
“They’re going in, they’re feeling like they’re not getting the support they need, and so the tension between the client and the case manager has risen, and you’ve got clients who are under stress but also case managers that are under stress.”
And one symptom is an increase of homelessness and the appearance of homeless pregnant women. Again from Radio New Zealand this morning:
Rhys Abraham, who helps run a group distributing food and essentials to people living on the streets, said volunteers had helped some women who are eight months pregnant.
Though there are no official figures, he believed the number of pregnant women sleeping rough in Auckland had trebled in the past 18 months.
“There are places that will take in pregnant women in an emergency who are otherwise homeless, but a lot of women either…don’t know about it, or…can’t get there, and some of these places are just full.
“They don’t have any more space, they’re doing the best they can, but it’s still not enough.”
The story is a familiar one for Corie Haddock, emergency crisis response team manager for the agency Lifewise, which is currently looking after two pregnant women.
“I’m aware of situations in the past where we’ve worked with other organisations that people have been heavily pregnant – eight, eight and a half months.
“So as the need of New Zealanders grows, those falling into homelessness or needing access to accomodation grows.”
Reducing beneficiary numbers at the same time as homelessness and desperation is increasing shows that something is terribly wrong.
John Key’s brighter future is obviously not for everyone.