In opposition, National claimed that Labour wasn’t really getting people off benefits, it was just moving them from unemployment benefit and ‘hiding’ them on the sickness and invalid’s benefits – Paula Bennett repeated the claim just this week in the House. But the facts prove otherwise.
When Labour was in power, there was small growth in sickness and invalids numbers (mostly due to the aging population) but that didn’t come close to balancing out the huge drop in unemployment and DPB numbers. Under Labour, the number of people getting a benefit fell by over 4% a year on average for nine years. That’s one hell of an achievement. Why did it happen? Because they were getting into work.
For all their beneficiary-bashing rhetoric, both in opposition and government, National has overseen an explosion in beneficiary numbers. The DPB and unemployment numbers reversed a long downward trend and exploded upwards. Those numbers my be explained by growing unemployment but why has number of people getting the sickness benefit grown a whooping 13% (and that’s after accounting for population growth)?It makes you wonder if National is hiding unemployment by pushing people on to the sickness benefit. Over all beneficiary numbers have increased over 19% in just one year under National.
People are being forced on to benefits because of the lack of work. Unemployment leads to more crime, poor health, depression and all those other social effects, and it has a devastating fiscal impact. Every person who goes from working to getting a benefit increases the deficit by around $18,000 a year in benefit payments and lost tax revenue.
Bennett says“Young people thinking of hanging around on the dole can forget about it on her watch” but the reality is that since she became minister the number of 18-24 year olds on the dole has exploded from 5,800 to 19,800. The number of people who had been on the dole longer than a year was just 7,200 when she became minister, now it’s over 12,000. She is all talk, no action; all puff, no substance.
The message here is that National’s anti-beneficiary rhetoric has always been hollow. Their entire policy is to pick on beneficiaries to win the support of mean-spirited people who think they’re all bludgers. They have no plan for helping people off the benefit. If they were serious about reducing benefit numbers they would be pursuing a full employment policy – they’re not because they aren’t.