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Labour coming in from the cold

Written By: - Date published: 12:18 pm, July 13th, 2017 - 63 comments
Categories: benefits, labour, welfare - Tags: , ,

I don’t have kids and am not going to pretend that I can get my head around the hugely complex system of benefits and tax credits that lower income parents can access. So when Labour released its Families Package policy this week I was more interested in the other social security policy they announced, namely to give a cash payment to beneficiaries and pensioners at the start of each winter to help with power bills and firewood. The payment will be made automatically to beneficiaries and will be available to pensioners if they apply. More details of the policy are here, including that it ties in with Labour’s other wellbeing policies of healthy housing.

There’s a few things here that are notable. One is that Labour are saying it’s administratively more efficient, including financially, to pay universally to beneficiaries and pensioners than it is to start targeting. Inherent in this is that well off pensioners will be less likely to apply. This is smart. It keeps the system simple and cheap to run but also doesn’t automatically give the grant to those who need it less. This is a good sign for later policy that also seeks to simplify welfare.

It also means that all beneficiaries are valued. Most significant here is that Labour actually talked about beneficiaries as a class of people needing assistance. That’s huge. This isn’t hedging around NZ’s bene-bashing culture by talking about the deserving poor (eg children of beneficiaries). It’s saying all beneficiaries deserve this.

When Guyon Espiner trotted out the question about why beneficiaries weren’t being given a restricted-use card instead of cash, it was heartening to see this neoliberal framing (‘beneficiaries can’t be trusted’) contrasted with an actual left wing position that it’s ok and normal to trust beneficiaries. Little said it was an administrative efficiency issue but the subtext here is that Labour believe beneficiaries have the right to spend the money on what the beneficiaries deem is needed. This is also significant, because it shifts the culture from we have to control morally deficient beneficiaries to beneficiaries are people too.

I don’t know if it’s possible to explain to people who haven’t spent a chunk of time on a benefit how important the difference is between this and the Nationalified benefit system which would seek to tie such a payment into certain providers only irrespective of regional difference or individual circumstance (so no, you can’t buy your firewood from the dude down the road even if it’s drier or cheaper or better suited to the size of your fireplace). Bennett reform WINZ also requires levels of bureaucracy not just from WINZ but from the beneficiary who would be expected to prove how much power they needed and in some places would be told they don’t actually need what they do.

These controls are mind-numbing and soul-destroying for their immediate control over the physical lives of beneficiaries but also for the very strong message to beneficiaries that you don’t have the same rights as other people, that the government at some level owns you. Labour did something humane and sensible instead. If this is where they are heading in welfare, it will make a huge difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the country.

Obviously this is baby steps in terms of change.  Yes, the much larger Families Package policy still segregates the non-working poor from the working poor (and parenting poor from childless poor), which is a long standing piece of institutional bigotry and unfairness, but Working For Families is a policy the left will need to push on once we have a strong Labour/Green government.

I’m hoping we are seeing the start of that change. This shift from Labour has been a long time coming. In a Q and A post at The Standard in 2014, when asked about his intentions for Labour policy around beneficiaries specifically, Little made a strong statement against bene-bashing, including this,

I care about every member of my community, whether they’re in work or not. And a government must be there for every person in its jurisdiction, whether they’re in work or not.

Given the winter power payment policy is one of the only direct affirmations of beneficiaries’ right to exist in a country that routinely practices prejudice against them as a class, I am saying thank-you Labour, and yes, do this more. This is values-based politics, it matches what Andrew Little said when he first became leader, and we need to hold him to that.

These are the building blocks of a compassionate society, not just policy around payments but actions that will change the culture. I want us to tell Labour not just what they are getting wrong, but what they are getting right and then demand more of that from them.

I also think that we don’t know yet what a Labour/Green government will be like, because we haven’t really done it like this before. But if you want to see how we could seriously change social welfare for the better, and why changing the government to the most progressive one we can get is absolutely critical, check out the Green Party Income Support policy.

63 comments on “Labour coming in from the cold ”

  1. Bill 1

    Yup. Welcoming that more compassionate liberalism. (it’s a start.)

    $450, or roughly 3 cubic metres of wood, is a huge ‘leg up’ for people claiming (woefully inadequate) entitlements. The payments aren’t the start of winter btw, but are staggered over five months (May through September) – which is less than ideal when fuel costs tend to be cash up-front. Still, I guess the option is there to burn more electric and less wood.

    Also a bit curious about the $750 for a couple versus the $450 for a single person. If two people without a job are sharing a house, does that equate to $900?

    Anyway. Regardless of how it all falls, I’d like to see an unequivocal statement to the effect that the ‘Winter Energy Payment’ will sit completely independent from any other entitlement calculation.

    • weka 1.1

      I didn’t know about the staggered payment, I thought they’d said it would be paid in May.

      A bit I clipped from the post because of length,

      There are some unknowns about the policy. How will this affect payments for higher power bills on Disability Allowance for people who are unwell/disabled? And will beneficiaries still be able to get an advance for firewood? (People living in colder parts of NZ have higher heating costs and this is currently reflected in how WINZ helps out with power and firewood bills).

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    Inherent in this is that well off pensioners will be less likely to apply.

    That would be a belief but I wonder how well it stacks up in reality. After all, the ‘well off pensioners’ are often the ones that have been cheating on their taxes their entire lives. If they see a government entitlement that they’re eligible for they will apply for it.

    IMO, much better and easier if they just make it an automatic payment.

    Bennett reform WINZ also requires levels of bureaucracy not just from WINZ but from the beneficiary who would be expected to prove how much power they needed

    It’s truly amazing just how much bureaucracy National and Act put in place while decrying all the bureaucracy.

    • weka 2.1

      I think it’s worth having a policy structure that signals to well off people that they don’t have to take what poor people need.

      btw, my parents would be considered well off. Not rich, just comfortable middle class. I’m pretty sure they haven’t been cheating on their taxes at all let alone their entire lives. Not sure if they would apply for this payment or not.

      • I think it’s worth having a policy structure that signals to well off people that they don’t have to take what poor people need.

        I think it’s easier to just give it to everyone and then tax the high incomes.

        • Yep. Just figure into your calculations that everyone will take it, tax enough that that doesn’t matter, and if anyone doesn’t, well, that’s money left over to help out elsewhere, or even if you run out of investment opportunities, (unlikely) pay down some debt.

          • weka 2.1.1.1.1

            right, but that’s a whole new taxation policy and Labour aren’t there yet.

            • Matthew Whitehead 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Which is part of why this whole campaign from Labour is honestly feeling like huge amounts of wasted time. At least with the Greens arguably the mistakes around what was included in the BRR wasn’t entirely their idea, but good grief, this election is like watching a foot race start and every single participant fall over backwards, and for some reason the only one getting back up is the racist. 😉

              • Meh.

                Lets be joyful instead and celebrate the incremental moves towards breaking free from Nationals viciousness with Labour coming in from the cold of neo liberalism. Lets support a Labour led government with the Greens and NZ First instead of looking for weaknesses , as now is not the hour for that sort of thing.

                WGBH Music: The Chieftains – The Frost is All Over (Live) – YouTube

                • Maybe. It just seems like every second person I come accross has entirely given up, so it’s hard to celebrate National going backwards when all the evidence I see is that we are as well. I’m going to fervently hope I’m just losing sight of the forest for the trees.

              • weka

                might also help if the people meant to be cheering on the runners weren’t throwing shit on the track 😉 (yes, that old argument, and no, I’m not saying don’t criticise).

                Can’t see any way that Labour can change their taxation policy pre-election, so how do we help them get elected with the platform they have already released? What choices do they realistically have between now and Sept, and what pressure can we bring to bear on that?

                I’m suggesting the way they structured this policy works (re pensioners), given the realities being dealt with. It’s not above criticism, but when we criticised I’d like to also see solutions. Wanting Labour to do things they can’t isn’t that helpful IMO.

                • Honestly, the BRR really isn’t all that bad, it’s mostly the rhetorical failure of not addressing people’s concerns about it, from either Labour or the Greens. Even the taxation limit is set high enough that practically it’s just a sop to say “we accept that theoretically there are limits to how high we should tax people” rather than an actual constraint.

                  If you ask an actual economist (which conveniently I do whenever I talk politics with my Dad) they’d say there’s absolutely room to be a very progressive government within those rules, especially given that progressive governments generally get more bang for their buck on spending than right-wing ones do.

  3. Kay 3

    Yes, I was doing a double take to confirm that someone in Labour had actually publicly spoken about beneficiaries in a positive way, and even had the balls to suggest- very close to an election- that we are actually human beings.

    Now daring to humanise us can of course go both ways politically:
    a) perhaps encourage more people on benefits (a large chunk of the non-voting bloc) to perhaps vote this year, and preferably for Labour. But at the same time, that could be cancelled out by
    b) Labour’s more centerist/potential voters who will never agree to beneficiaries getting a cent more for anything, their 30 years of indoctrination has them hardwired. They still view anyone on a benefit for any reason (including disability) at the bottom of the food chain and in reality aren’t much better than Nats, just less vocal about it. So this might cost Labour a few votes.

    As for the payment card thing, I’m now having minimal contact with the MSM, I can’t cope around election time so keeping up with this this way. No surprises the idea w’ere incapable of spending our money responsibly came up again, 1st thing that was going to be implied.

    In response to that, I wonder how many receiving WFF spend ALL that extra money JUST on their children? Can they in all honesty say it hasn’t been used for their own vices at some point,? Should all WFF recipients be issued with a green payment card that can only be used to purchase items specifically for said children? Or because they’re working are they somehow more responsible?

    I’m still voting for a change of Govt but even with the fuel bonus bribe (and I”m afraid to a degree it is) they still don’t have my vote. Great betrayal of 1999 and all that, and it’s taken 18 years for them to even acknowledge how bad things have got.

    • weka 3.1

      I don’t know if it’s a bribe. It’s pretty solid health policy from my perspective.

      The card line by Espiner was pretty perfunctory, didn’t have much weight in it. I guess he feels obliged to ask.

      It was interesting to go back and look at what Little said in 2014. Here’s the whole of it,

      (5) Do you intend for Labour to develop policy specific to Work and Income beneficiaries? (as opposed to policy directed towards low income people in general). Do you recognise that many WINZ beneficiaries have vulnerabilities not being addressed by other Labour policy?

      There’s a really sad irony that when workers lose their jobs – as far too many have under this government – they get sympathy. But as soon as they start receiving the unemployment benefit, they’re vilified.

      New Zealanders are better than that. We know that when other members of our communities are having a rough time, we have a responsibility to help them get through. But we’ve got a nasty, narrow-minded government which keeps whipping up antipathy towards people who, for whatever reason, are relying on government support.

      I care about every member of my community, whether they’re in work or not. And a government must be there for every person in its jurisdiction, whether they’re in work or not.

      We also have to acknowledge that many people aren’t able to be in “normal” full-time, paid work, whether because of illness or injury or other important responsibilities like parenting. They shouldn’t be harassed and treated like second-class citizens just because they need a little extra support.

      In the future world of work, people are going to move in and out of work a lot more, and we have to make sure that the income support system helps them do that as smoothly as possible. That will mean reviewing many of the systems we currently have. We really need to look at a universal basic income and stop stigmatizing those who find themselves out of work against their wishes and for reasons beyond their control.

      At the time I thought, that’s good, and, we’ll see. I really hope they follow through on this and make this value more visible.

      • Kay 3.1.1

        Agreed Weka, probably not a bribe, that’s my extreme cynicism coming through as per usual. Can’t imagine why…

        Interesting to read what Little said back then. I”m still waiting for a reply from Carmen Sepaloni when I emailed her before the last election to discuss some issues around what seemed at the time to be no real policy toward beneficiaries. And an attempt at the time to email whoever the Labour leader was then (Little? Serious memory problems) about the same subject got me a very generic reply from his campaign office. They obviously weren’t terribly interested in getting my vote I suppose.

        I shall remain cynical which I find is the best approach, and if something positive does happen then that’s great. If not, then nothing to get disappointed about. But yes, it’s a start.

        • weka 3.1.1.1

          Little became leader after the 2014 election. It was probably Cunliffe you emailed. No-one was talking about beneficiaries then. I’d have to check the timing, but prior to that Shearer did his now infamous bene-bashing Painter on the Roof speech. That’s why Little’s words a few months after the election were so welcome. I do trust him on this, wider Labour I’m still waiting to see.

        • I’d be really curious to see a comparision of WFFs effectiveness up against benefits, as I imagine benefits do much better than WFFs in achieving results. I feel like ideally, WFFs attacks problems way too indirectly. One thing it’s trying to do is address stagnant wages. Labour needs an actual policy to lift wages, which will help not just middle-class battlers but also the working poor. WFFs is really a bandaid here, especially if wages continue to lag behind growth in productivity, of which workers are entitled to their fair share.

          Another is to make sure kids are fed, clothed, etc… I feel like some of this can be achieved through school programs. In the UK they feed kids at school- shouldn’t we at least consider whether that’s a useful solution? It would remove a lot of stigma for kids if they knew they had a square meal waiting for them at school regardless of whether their parents could pay for it.

          It may be a necessary transfer. I honestly don’t know. But I feel like it’s not been as rigorously tested as benefits have because of its appeal to middle-class voters, and that’s probably wrong. I mean, I’m sure at least at the upper end, this is money that should have to compete with priorities like making sure people aren’t homeless, and I’m not sure it does that, even though at the lower end and in the middle people really rely on it and need the support. My question is if WFF is really the best way to get that to them.

          I am with Weka that Labour needs a huge culture change on supporting New Zealanders, aka. benefits. Little is talking the talk, but we’ve yet to see his party walk the walk. Let’s hope this is the start of them following the Greens down the road of actually caring for all kiwis and wanting to create a sense of community and dignity for those who need our support.

  4. alwyn 4

    The fascinating thing about the heating allowance, at least for pensioners, is that they will get almost nothing at all from the scheme unless they are in a high income bracket..
    The amount promised for a couple is $700/year. I am assuming that it will not be taxed.
    If you are collecting National Super, and are in a low tax bracket, the proposed changes to the tax thresholds that National are planning mean that you will get an additional $681/year next year when they change the tax thresholds. Labour are going to scrap the tax changes and hence this amount will not be available.

    Thus any married couple getting the new payment, and whose income is primarily the pension will get $700/year and LOSE $681/year!
    What a swindle.
    Similar results arise from the numbers for a single person.

    If you are on a higher income, and are paying tax on your super at a higher rate you will be better off as a tax free $700 will still be paid instead of a lower after tax payment from the super.
    In addition you will have to apply at WINZ for the money. That probably means turning up each year and being quizzed about whether you are really eligible for the money. Why not just pay it to every pensioner automatically? They know who they are and could just pay it automatically. Why do they insist on making people plead for their entitlement? Are they trying to make claiming your entitlement a demeaning grovel at WINZ?

    • weka 4.1

      Re the last bit, massive comprehension fail on the post 🙄

      Given how many outright lies you tell about the Greens and probably Labour, I’m not even going to argue back against your maths apart from to say that Labour’s policies balance out the tax issue in other ways.

      We could of course say that National would only give pensioners $681 a year instead of $700 a year, but that would be fucking stupid because people don’t live in isolated policy vacuums, they have whole lives.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      Thus any married couple getting the new payment, and whose income is primarily the pension will get $700/year and LOSE $681/year!

      They don’t actually get the $681 so they won’t lose it.

      And then there’s the question of just where they are in the tax bracket. That $681 would be the maximum and not the median or the average which, I suspect, will be far less.

      In other words, as you’re likely to know all this, you’re lying again.

      • weka 4.2.1

        Thanks Draco, I thought as much. May as well just point Liar at everything alwyn says about Labour and the Greens now.

      • alwyn 4.2.2

        I see you like to adopt the approach that means that when I say something that you find very difficult to answer you simply call it a lie.
        They have been promised the tax changes and it has been passed into law. The only way they will not get it is if Labour get into Government and change the law. They will get it unless that happens.
        They will, if they are dependent on the pension for the bulk of their income, get that full amount of $681. Those are the people who Labour are claiming they worry about aren’t they?
        The only people who get less than the $681 that will be people in households with incomes above $100,000/year or so. How many pensioners are in that bracket?
        Those are the ones who will end up in better shape from the Labour scheme. Are you really happy that Labour are planning to give more to the rich while giving nothing extra to the lower income levels?
        If you don’t understand how it works, and clearly you don’t, why don’t read up on it and argue from an understanding of the matter rather than just dribble the word liar?
        There is another matter of course. Little was claiming that it was much easier and cheaper to simply give it to everyone. Why is he treating pensioners as people to be demeaned and made to apply for something to which they are entitled? Are they going to be quizzed in the middle of a public office and made to feel as if they shouldn’t ask for something to which they have a right?

        • weka 4.2.2.1

          Little was claiming that it was much easier and cheaper to simply give it to everyone. Why is he treating pensioners as people to be demeaned and made to apply for something to which they are entitled? Are they going to be quizzed in the middle of a public office and made to feel as if they shouldn’t ask for something to which they have a right?

          As I’ve already pointed out, that was answered in the post. Did you even read it?

          Interesting that you think that people approaching WINZ should be demeaned and have to grovel. Why is that?

          • alwyn 4.2.2.1.1

            Of course I read the post Weka. I always read things I am going to comment on carefully.
            However, as you say, Little said it was more efficient, and in practice cheaper, to simply automatically give these benefits to everyone who qualifies.
            He didn’t say they things that you have put in, at least AFAIK. It was you wasn’t it who says.
            “Inherent in this is that well off pensioners will be less likely to apply. This is smart. It keeps the system simple and cheap to run but also doesn’t automatically give the grant to those who need it less”.
            Why should they have to apply. They qualify and it is quite obvious and well known who they are.
            Why make them apply at all?

            “Interesting that you think that people approaching WINZ should be demeaned and have to grovel”
            I never said any such thing. I said the exact opposite.
            They should get their entitlement as of right. There is no reason at all, except to inconvenience them, to make them apply at all. Why are they being made to do so?
            Have you ever applied for National Super? I and many people I know, including some avid Green and Labour Party voters found the whole thing quite appalling, with the supercilious staff who made you feel as if you were trying to get something you didn’t really deserve. It may have improved of course but that was what it was like when I applied.

        • Draco T Bastard 4.2.2.2

          I see you like to adopt the approach that means that when I say something that you find very difficult to answer you simply call it a lie.

          I answered it pointed out why what you said amounted to a lie. Nothing you’ve said since changes that.

          They have been promised the tax changes and it has been passed into law. The only way they will not get it is if Labour get into Government and change the law. They will get it unless that happens.

          It’s one or the other but it’s not actually a loss because they don’t get it now. And I note that the $700 that they’d get from Labour’s policy is greater than what they’d get under National. So, not a loss there either.

          The only people who get less than the $681 that will be people in households with incomes above $100,000/year or so.

          Why would that happen if it’s tax cuts to the lower brackets? Wouldn’t everyone get them?

          Little was claiming that it was much easier and cheaper to simply give it to everyone.

          He’s right there so I don’t know why he’s getting pensioners to apply for it. Seems silly to me but then I’m also fully in favour of a UBI that everyone gets.

          Are you really happy that Labour are planning to give more to the rich while giving nothing extra to the lower income levels?

          I think that most benefits should be universal and given to everyone and then use progressive taxation to balance things. Much easier especially when combined with a Cashless Society.

          Why is he treating pensioners as people to be demeaned and made to apply for something to which they are entitled?

          Why do you think only pensioners are demeaned by having to apply for benefits?

          Are they going to be quizzed in the middle of a public office and made to feel as if they shouldn’t ask for something to which they have a right?

          You mean like all the other beneficiaries?

          • alwyn 4.2.2.2.1

            “The only people who get less than the $681 that will be people in households with incomes above $100,000/year or so”.
            The National Super is taxable. I understand that the $681 applies to those on the lowest tax rates. If your income was more you would get less than that figure as the tax on your super will effectively be at a higher rate.

            “You mean like all the other beneficiaries?”.
            And what gives you any reason to believe that anyone dealing with the state deserves to be treated in that way? I certainly do not think this is reasonable.
            The reason I commented on pensioners is because they are the only group who are required to apply. All other beneficiaries are apparently going to get it automatically.

            Even you seem to agree with me on that point. After all you say “Seems silly to me”.

            To say they don’t receive it now, and will only get it next year doesn’t really seem to you as being no loss if it is cancelled? I suppose if we took that idea to its extreme we could say that cancelling New Zealand Super and setting the payment to zero from 1 January 2018 doesn’t mean that people are losing anything. After all they haven’t got any 2018 Super yet have they?

            • Draco T Bastard 4.2.2.2.1.1

              If your income was more you would get less than that figure as the tax on your super will effectively be at a higher rate.

              And that either shows a fundamental misunderstanding of taxes or that you’re lying again. If some one on a low income gets the full benefit of a tax cut then some one on a high income will also get the full benefit of that tax cut.

              The reason I commented on pensioners is because they are the only group who are required to apply. All other beneficiaries are apparently going to get it automatically.

              All beneficiaries have to apply to get their base benefit and so have to go pleading to WINZ to get it and several other benefits that they’re entitled to. this is demeaning to them. And, yes, I do think it’s silly to have any beneficiaries applying for it.

              The point is that you don’t seem to be concerned about the demeaning of others – only the pensioners.

              To say they don’t receive it now, and will only get it next year doesn’t really seem to you as being no loss if it is cancelled?

              You’re being disingenuous again:

              The tax changes will apply from April next year and leave an estimated $2 billion a year in workers’ pockets once in place.

              Labour could have their changes in place and ready to go by April next year meaning that there will be no loss to them.

              I suppose if we took that idea to its extreme we could say that cancelling New Zealand Super and setting the payment to zero from 1 January 2018 doesn’t mean that people are losing anything.

              That would be BS on your part trying to draw a false equivalence to your strawman and thus try to distract from reality.

              • alwyn

                Did you read hat I said?

                “that either shows a fundamental misunderstanding of taxes”.
                Why don’t you try working out what you will get from your New Zealand Super if you have an income of $100,000/year plus NZ Super as opposed to just New Zealand Super. You will not get the whole $681.

                “you don’t seem to be concerned about the demeaning of others – only the pensioners.”
                Then just what do you think my comment that
                “And what gives you any reason to believe that anyone dealing with the state deserves to be treated in that way? I certainly do not think this is reasonable” means?

                “Labour could have their changes in place and ready to go by April next year”.
                Not if they do what they are proposing. It wouldn’t start until May.

                “All beneficiaries have to apply to get their base benefit and so have to go pleading to WINZ to get it and several other benefits that they’re entitled to. this is demeaning to them.”.
                I’ll have to take your word for it that this is the case. It DOES NOT mean I approve of it.

                “That would be BS on your part trying to draw a false equivalence to your strawman and thus try to distract from reality”
                Well you are the one who claimed that if you don’t get it today you aren’t going to lose anything if a future entitlement is scrapped. I am merely taking that idea to it’s final conclusion.

                • Why don’t you try working out what you will get from your New Zealand Super if you have an income of $100,000/year plus NZ Super as opposed to just New Zealand Super. You will not get the whole $681.

                  I hadn’t heard that NZSuper was now income tested. When did this occur?

                  Well you are the one who claimed that if you don’t get it today you aren’t going to lose anything if a future entitlement is scrapped.

                  A future entitlement swapped for another future entitlement of similar value is not the same as scrapping an already existing entitlement.

                  • alwyn

                    “now income tested”.
                    Where on earth did you get this idea? It certainly isn’t in anything I have said. Who has been telling you things like this?

                    “future entitlement swapped for another future entitlement”.
                    There is a great difference you know. The National tax cut is an entitlement. It has been passed into law.
                    The Labour proposal is simply a story being spun by a politician. There is no reason at all to believe it will be passed into law if that man Little were to get into the PM’s office.

                • If you have a six-figure income it is not a serious problem that you pay the top rate on your NZ Super or any other supplemental payments you get from the government. Good grief. Now, I would happily support people getting those benefits untaxed, and the benefits for seniors staying comparable and universal, but that would mean that the rest of your income would probably be taxed a lot more than it is now. Up to you whether you like that trade-off.

                  And by the way- yes, beneficiaries are “demeaned” routinely in ways much worse than you’re claiming pensioners will be demeaned. Pensioners, ideally, only visit WINZ once to set everything up. (ideally) Beneficiaries are constantly called back to be controlled, interrogated, to account for their activities, for seminars, etc… it’s pretty disgusting and honestly a lot of it is a big distraction from actually looking for work for those who are actually capable. I’m not adverse to a little accountability, but that’s seriously different from the current attitude that WINZ’s job is to chuck people off benefits wherever possible. Most of the people advocating for beneficiaries who aren’t beneficiarias are seniors who actually have to go into WINZ offices to set up their NZ Super payments, and they’re usually pretty astounded at what WINZ has turned into nowadays.

    • Gabby 4.3

      They won’t lose what they don’t have.

    • mickysavage 4.4

      Alwyn you seem to have a problem with the redistribution idea that resources should go to the poor instead of the rich.

      • alwyn 4.4.1

        I have read everything I have posted on this subject and I am totally unable to see how you come to this conclusion?
        Are you meaning to reply to some other commenter?

  5. Siobhan 5

    Re, the concept of restricted-use card
    “Between 33 to 39% of New Zealand women experience physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to a study by Janet Fanslow and Elizabeth Robinson1.” from the womens refuge site.

    Those statistics should include ‘financial abuse‘ in my opinion.

    Abuse is in all levels of society, but it makes sense that the more stress, the more a person suffers powerlessness, the greater the odds of abuse.

    And I know women who would like their benefits to come as a voucher system, despite its many, many, drawbacks, just so money can be spent on the families needs…not just that one individual..

    • weka 5.1

      Are you suggesting that all beneficiaries should have their benefits paid as vouchers then?

      • Siobhan 5.1.1

        Its a hard one, on one level I can’t think of anything worse…but then its hard to ignore the plight of the most struggling beneficiaries who carry the biggest burden. More research needs to be done on the actual spending of benefits, rather than anyone’s opinion. Including mine.
        And, of course, I realise that any voucher system run by our current services would be just as abusive.
        Infact I don’t recall a time when visiting ‘the dole office’ was anything other than soul destroying, under any Government..but maybe Labour could pledge to radically change the culture down there.
        That would be a policy that indicates a real ‘Change of Government’.

        • weka 5.1.1.1

          I certainly remember when it wasn’t soul-destroying. Up until the mid-80s there was no shame being in a benefit and the Department of Social Welfare was actually tasked with welfare.

          There are plenty of other ways to help women who are being abused. I wouldn’t count putting all beneficiaries under a voucher system which is punitive even when done with a smile as useful.

          “More research needs to be done on the actual spending of benefits”

          So it’s not just about women being abused, for you there is an issue of what beneficiaries in general spend their income on?

          • Siobhan 5.1.1.1.1

            “No”. Just financial abuse.
            No, change that, “Yes”.
            I think it would be important to show the whole population how impossible it actually is to live on a benefit.
            It would be a good starting point to increase benefit.
            I know when I was briefly on the dole, with 3 small children, they insisted on paying the entire benefit into my husbands account, as, technically, he was the job seeker, even though we both wanted it to be paid to me as the person organising things. I don’t know if this is still policy, but if it is, that’s the sort of thing that needs to change.
            Its a shame we don’t have a new movement like ‘The Unemployed Rights Center’ . We needed them back in the day, we need them even more now.

            • weka 5.1.1.1.1.1

              We already know that people on benefits live in poverty. It’s not a secret that benefit rates are set below what is liveable. Can’t see how doing micro-analysis on what beneficiaries spend their money on would help raise benefits.

        • Kay 5.1.1.2

          What payment cards boil down to is GOVERNMENT CONTROL OF BENEFICIARIES. It’s a simple as that. And by extension, the general public feeling they’re having “control” over what their hard earned tax dollars are being spent on. Next thing they’ll be demanding the supermarket receipts to make sure we’re not buying chocolate biscuits (ring a bell?)

          Siobahn, when you propose research of benefit spending breakdowns, are you looking for any particular patterns, or specifics? Alcohol, drugs, takeaways, chocolate, or how the medications haven’t been picked up this month to pay the power bill? All benefit types, audting people who are obviously having serious problems? Could you elaborate please?

          • Siobhan 5.1.1.2.1

            “or how the medications haven’t been picked up this month to pay the power bill? All benefit types, auditing people who are obviously having serious problems? “…yes, all those issues.
            My own sense is it would highlight the fact that benefits are NOT LIVABLE.
            And more research is needed regarding pensions.
            The fact is I do not see how a non home owning couple or individual can survive on current payment levels.
            This will become a massive problem in a comparatively short amount of time. Its the elephant in the room.

            And I know, I know, how to avoid the ire of the ‘judging classes’ who will scream about purchases of biscuits and chippies…I’ll have to put my thinking cap on for that one…

            • Kay 5.1.1.2.1.1

              Siobhan, the people ideologically opposed to welfare and/or those indoctrinated to despise it are going to deny the elephant in the room until it happens to them and they suddenly realise oh dear this isn’t enough to pay the bills yet alone have any quality of life. And forget the chocolate biscuits. (Disclaimer- if you’re single, no dependents on Supported Living Payment and even in private rental, it’s still possible for most of us to afford chocolate sometimes. And we bloody well deserve it. But chocolate or an equal treat should be accessible for all).

              Politicians are more than aware the benefit rates are unlivable, from time to time they even accidently say it. I’m pretty certain most of the public know that deep down as well, so no amount of putting the evidence in pretty charts in front of them will change that.

              The social consequences have to start affecting them personally- like the homelessness crisis has suddenly become very visible, and they can’t avoid seeing beggars in the streets might make them start thinking about it- but until they’re made redundant or come down with serious illness then no, there’s not going to be protests in the streets or any real campaigns to change things.

        • The thing that worries me about this, without trying to make assumptions, is whether it might just make things worse anyway.

          Abusive people can be really wily, and really quick to anger. Even if it’s a thing they do for all beneficiaries, (because if it’s a thing they only do for some, you can bet at least a few of those MFers are going to blame their partner for it happening and get even worse because of it) can you honestly say that an abusive partner who’s been drinking the kids’ meals or clothes or whatever previously who suddenly can’t do that isn’t going to either flip out and destroy the supplies for the kids, or find some other abhorrently creative way to control, gaslight, or just simply hurt their family instead? If it will really help people, then great, but I’d really want to put that idea to some people who have been in that situation recently and hear what they have to say before presuming it was a solution, because it’s so complex.

          Honestly, I’d much rather that we had genuine social work going on at WINZ and they were helping people out who were in abusive situations, but boy would that require a culture change!

          But back on topic, sure, if really it helps, then everyone should get bank cards with restrictions instead. Just don’t make those things orange shame-cards.

  6. Stuart Munro 6

    It’s a good move – looks like a thaw in the hard neo-liberalism may be underway.

  7. Cinny 7

    So much goodness here from Labour.

    Many of us worry about the elderly, many of us know they put themselves last, usually as a result of being raised during or after the war. And then their health fails because they are not as young and resilient as they used to be.

    Many of us worry about families becoming ill due to not being able to afford to heat their homes. The children don’t have a choice, and they become sick as a result.

    Problem solved, just like that, forward thinking by Labour

    The flow on effects will be massive, warm healthy people don’t tend to clog up the health system or take days off work, or school.

    • gsays 7.1

      Gday cinny, I smiled at the observation of old folk putting themselves last.
      Mum put a heatpump in a couple of years ago.
      She will still sit in the lounge with a scarf on and a knee rug.
      Maybe with this announcement she might put the thermostat up to 22 degrees.

      Good work Labour, doesn’t hurt that I occasionally sell the odd load of wood either.

  8. Michael 8

    It’s a step in the left direction – but nothing more. Before cracking open the vodka and toasting the Labour comrades’ re-found commitment to social justice, I want to look at the fine print, as bitter experience teaches me that, with Labour, the Devil is always in the details.

  9. Andrea 9

    Labour used to be the WORKERS party. They’ve never been fans for non-workers and innovative thinking is generally no strength in their collective.

    Another splash of money that passes straight through the hands of the targeted and on to a set of plump providers – whether they provide electricity, gas in bottles or on tap, or firewood. (Is Evil Coal included for the West Coasters?)

    Well. Yay. How underwhelming is that? Now pause before anyone leaps. Think about the many houses that haven’t been insulated above and below. Rentals with gaps out to the daylight and free-running water and damp. House designs that have always been cold. Living in one room with the occasional scurry to the loo or the kitchen. Is that money anywhere near sufficient to offset those housing flaws?

    I’m with Kay, and Alwyn – the humiliation factor is darned high. And, so far as I recall – super is NOT a ‘benefit’.

    In some WINZ offices there are alternative doors so oldies can deal with Nice People. (They still have to get past the security guards and remove their woolly beanies, though.)

    It’s a start – seventeen years late. A start. But I don’t want to vote for the workers party. I’m still waiting for the apology and reparations from them for the hell of the 1980s, going forward.

    • weka 9.1

      Think about the many houses that haven’t been insulated above and below. Rentals with gaps out to the daylight and free-running water and damp. House designs that have always been cold. Living in one room with the occasional scurry to the loo or the kitchen. Is that money anywhere near sufficient to offset those housing flaws?

      No, which is why Labour and the Greens also have other policies like insulating houses, rental WOFs, building new housing, reclaiming HNZ etc. For people that own their own home, there is assistance from WINZ to do repairs, and having Labour take a ‘beneficiaries are humans’ approach would make that much more viable.

      “But I don’t want to vote for the workers party. I’m still waiting for the apology and reparations from them for the hell of the 1980s, going forward.”

      I also think that Labour should apologise. Who are you going to vote for?

    • Sacha 9.2

      “the many houses that haven’t been insulated above and below”

      Sideways would also be useful, including double-glazing. Nats watered down that Greens policy as much as they thought they could get away with. This election says whether they were right.

  10. Ian 10

    I care about every member of my community, whether they’re in work or not. And a government must be there for every person in its jurisdiction, whether they’re in work or not.
    Bill English can say the same. Nationals policies towards the poor and downtrodden are indistinguishable from Labours policies.
    Bill points out occasionally that not all members of the community play the game. You know what I mean.

    • weka 10.1

      “Bill English can say the same.”

      Yeah, but no-one would believe him, because of the Bennett bene-bashing welfare reforms and because post-Barclay English is now branded a liar.

      There are very clear differences in policy between National and Labour (do you read policy?), and clear differences in attitude. You’ve just hinted at one yourself, that National purse a bludger meme and treat all beneficiaries by that standard.

      • Ian 10.1.1

        NZ under a national government is the best place in the world to be a beneficiary.Surely your indoctrination has not made you blind ,deaf and dumb ??
        Labour is just pissed that they didn’t do it.

        A layman like myself can see there is bugger all difference between labour and National’s welfare policies.

        • weka 10.1.1.1

          “Surely your indoctrination has not made you blind ,deaf and dumb ??”

          Nothing like a bit of idiotic projection.

          • gsays 10.1.1.1.1

            By beneficiary, Ian must mean landlords, employers, folk with tax havens and the likes of Todd debarclay and sir dear leader.

            Not to mention the trucking industry and power company shareholders.

            • rhinocrates 10.1.1.1.1.1

              As Lloyd George said of a rival, Lord Derby, “Like a cushion, he always wore the impress of the last man who had sat on him.”

              So Little – the 90-day fire at will law is a prime example. First he was going to abolish it, then he suddenly wanted to make it “fairer,” meaning that his vaunted repeal would be bullshit.

              There’s a Tui billboard in that. I’m sick of Labour’s bullshit promises. They mean nothing.

        • Oh yeah, never mind that WINZ are trying to throw everyone they can off benefits to say there are fewer “benefit-dependent households,” that even after the increases benefit levels are still below starvation level, and all the crap that you have to go through to get them.

          Labour’s policy is better than National’s. There’s not enough of a difference between them, but frankly, the #1 priority for anyone who has to deal with WINZ in their daily lives should absolutely be to chuck National out ASAP.

  11. rhinocrates 11

    ‘The actual left wing position’ of Labour just a few years ago was to denigrate beneficiaries as frauds and parasites.

    They’ve never denied that or apologised for it at high level and Little’s still found it convenient to mock the marginalised in the LGBT community. If they want to be clear about their difference from Bennett and Shearer’s position, they should say so.

    Promoting appalling misogynists and rape apologists like O’Connor and Jackson does not give me confidence. Does Little perhaps think that not enough rapists are voting for Labour and he needs their votes?

    I also think that Labour should apologise. Who are you going to vote for?

    As a person suffering a permanent debilitating health condition, I’m sick of being used as a political football by a fairweather friend. Sorry, Weka, but Labour is not going to earn my vote by merely claiming now, as long as it suits them, to be marginally better than National when I know just how Little (pun intended) I can trust them. Being told by apparatchik cretins like Jenny Kirk that I’m not good enough for them won’t change my mind.

    Talk is cheap. Labour deserves nothing it must earn votes, not expect them.

    • rhinocrates 11.1

      I mean really, did Labour HQ ask themselves, “Hey, who’s the one man on Earth who can make Peter Dunne look like the better option? I mean as some sort of Situationist-slash-Dadaist experiment? How about Greg O’Connor? Yeah? Right!”

      Which will be the sicker joke – him as Minster of Police or Women’s Affairs?

      And how many are in the Roastbusters gang? Will their votes tip the balance now that Jackson’s on board?

    • weka 11.2

      I wouldn’t expect anything less rhinocrates 🙂

      btw, I’m not suggesting people vote Labour, nor was the post intended to encourage that. I think progressives should vote Green. But there are swing voters and non-voters who might vote Labour if they understand that there is potential for either redemption or some breathing space for those hardest hit. That’s better for all of us than them voting National or NZF or not at all.

  12. Labour is continually hitting all the high notes in addressing the weeping sores that have been afflicting this country for three decades , and while some may call it tinkering and others accuse it of being neo liberal lite… this is yet another sign of a step in the right direction.

    I haven’t voted Labour in 3 decades because they were the party that introduced neo liberalism and because they continually indulged in third way Blairite identity politics ( Clarke for example ) . And I’ve held a 3 decade grudge because of that. But now… this election … Labour will get my vote. It started when I heard David Cunliffes magnificent first speech and has continued on under Andrew Little.

    Not in vast sweeping changes , but changes that can – and most probably will , – be built upon by increments. I’m not expecting miracles , but I certainly cant tolerate this jumped up , corrupt and immoral National government.

    I don’t like liars and I don’t like pushy upstarts.

    And I cannot think of a more dynamic , feisty , creative and innovative triad of party’s than Labour, Greens and NZ First to bring in that new govt. That is what a democracy is all about , – slower decisions with much deliberation and debate – as opposed to the fascist arbitrary and autocratic way National expects to get away with in dealing with the general public.

    I like my governments slow paced , slow to jump on bandwagons and slow to rush to a decision that is high risk and may lead to disaster. I dislike Johnny come lately upstarts such as we had with Roger Douglas and his proteges that came in thereafter, and carried on year after year ramming through changes most of us didn’t want and wrecking this great country we once had.

    I like my government’s quiet and inclusive – and mindful that they are there only to serve you and me . Not the other way round. They need to know their place and not try to rise above their station.

    And I’ll be watching , mind, … as I sit here in my rocker on the porch with my houn dawg by my side curled up asleep. Grandpappys shotgun restin across my lap and some Kentucky bourbon on a grey wet winters day… now then … think I’ll be takin a nap in this here rocker as the rain makes a gentle serenade on the cabins tin roof… peace and quiet. Bliss.

    Y’all come back , now , ya hear ?

  13. AsleepWhileWalking 13

    This policy is a pleasant surprise from Labour. PIty this election you are even less likely to get into power than the last time.

    Hopefully more of the same is produced so the public have some idea of what you stand for.

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