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No ideas? Bash some beneficiaries

Written By: - Date published: 1:00 pm, February 16th, 2010 - 30 comments
Categories: benefits, labour, national/act government - Tags:

Here’s John Key explaining why sickness and invalid’s benefit numbers are increasing (and, hence, the need for some good old fashioned National beneficiary-bashing):

“the previous government encouraged a move off the unemployment benefit into those categories, which aren’t work tested”

You’ve been caught out on this lie by The Standard authors before, John. Did you think it would slip by us now?

There was no policy of ‘hiding’ unemployment beneficiaries on the sickness and invalids benefits under Labour. The total number of beneficiaries plunged under Labour and it was led down by the number on the unemployment benefit. The numbers on the sickness benefit, in contrast, rose only slightly above population growth, due to the ageing population.

Contrast Labour’s record with National’s.

We know the number on the unemployment benefit has skyrocketed by 45,000 while John Key has minced around the country having his photo taken but it’s less widely known that there have been dramatic increases in the numbers on the sickness and invalid’s benefits too.

In just one year of National, the number on the sickness and invalid’s benefits climbed by 10,000, compared to a growth of 50,000 over Labour’s whole nine years in power. Instead of bringing down sickness and invalid numbers, Key has been them climb much faster than before.

Key can hardly blame Labour for that can he? By his logic, the increase is probably his government trying to hide the number of newly unemployed Kiwi workers.

The reality though is that more New Zealanders are in late-middle age than ever before. For that reason a higher portion are unable to work due to ill health and have to fall back on the sickness and invalid’s benefits.

Making these people jump through more hoops to get their benefits is a waste of time and money. If they could work, they would. They are not bludgers. But, short of any real ideas for the economy and creating jobs, beneficiary bashing is all Key can do.

30 comments on “No ideas? Bash some beneficiaries ”

  1. PK 1

    “Making these people jump through more hoops to get their benefits is a waste of time and money. If they could work, they would.”

    How do you know this? Have you spent much time as a Duty Solicitor and seen the number of people getting legal aid because they are sickness beneficiaries?

    It seems reasonable to provide some work testing procedures.

    • Bright Red 1.1

      A year ago 10,000 of them weren’t on the benefit. Seems highly unlikely they all decided to make a lifestyle change for the hell of it. Far more likely that they got ill.

      • A Nonny Moose 1.1.1

        Marriages splitting up from redundancies/mortagee sales, small businesses going under, financial worth challenged/challenging…nah, couldn’t possibly be a recession that makes people sick from stress.

        • Rex Widerstrom

          I hope previous comments here and elsewhere have made it clear I’m no beneficiary basher – quite the opposite.

          And I agree that any cohort of people on a sickness or invalid’s benefit that don’t deserve it is going to be a very small one.

          But… I’m presently spending perhaps half my time dealing with a person who has managed to convince Centrelink (the Australian WINZ) that mental stress has made him too sick to work. The cause of that stress, he claims, is having to be in court all the time.

          As indeed he is… because he keeps running round suing people. He has sued the State, the court registry, issued writs of mandamus and certorari against judges, files endless interlocutory applications… he’s publicly defamed a law firm that was engaged to represent one of the people he’s suing, so now they’re suing him…

          He’s clearly capable of sitting at a computer all day and reading online legal databases and then sending off 14 pages submissions (mis)quoting legislation and precedent. He could do some sort of work.

          Because he’s a beneficiary, he avoids the $1700 filing fee at the Supreme Court which the rest of us have to pay. Legal Aid have finally cut him off, but that just makes for a bigger problem for the courts, dealing with a self-represented litigant.

          If Centrelink were to insist he look for work he’d – hopefully – become no burden to the taxpayer and he’d have something to do all day other than sit round causing trouble for others.

          So a review isn’t, in itself, a bad thing. It’s whether it’s undertaken with a genuine desire to move only those people who genuinely deserve to be moved into work, or just to slash numbers using any old excuse.

          • prism

            Rex This type of litigant is not new – and I thought that all sensible legal systems had some system to deal with them. I remember hearing about a something that would enable someone to be classed as a “litigious” person and then they could be stopped. I know how their behaviours become extremely harrassing and stressful and tie up Court and others .

  2. indiana 2

    The only reason I am suspicious is that I know of siblings both who are deaf. On has a been employed for some time and apart from some discrimination in the work place is a productive contributor to the employer. The other has a trade but over time has struggled to find work as their trade has gone off shore. WINZ advised this person to go onto the sickness benefit for being deaf.

  3. Olwyn 3

    Beneficiary bashing is particularly evil when it is not accompanied by a policy of full employment -it is effectively designating a group of people to be targets for public vilification. This includes older people who have done physical work all their lives and are no longer up to it – lugging bricks or beams about from 5 or 6 in the morning till late afternoon for 30 or 40 years takes its toll on the body.

    • PK 3.1

      “This includes older people who have done physical work all their lives and are no longer up to it lugging bricks or beams about from 5 or 6 in the morning till late afternoon for 30 or 40 years takes its toll on the body.”

      I think the concern is more with people in their 20’s/30’s.

      • Bright Red 3.1.1

        PK. Any evidence (statistical evidence, not what you heard at the pub) that numbers in the 20s and 30s are rising?

      • prism 3.1.2

        Believe me when there is a climate of beneficiary bashing and get tough it gets applied to more than 20-30 yr olds. I hate the idea of raising the old age pension age (Super) over 65 with a British move to 70, as it means that you continue having to attend Winz and be questioned and scrutinised by young people, sent to courses and be patronised etc.

        Then there may only be manual work at minimum wages. You may be required to do full-time work, which is I think set at 30 hours. I don’t know if you might have to get two 15 hour jobs. You may only be able to find casual work at low wages insufficient to live on. I think then you can ask for a top-up from Winz – asking for money like a beggar. It is hard after you have spent a lifetime in paid work or unpaid caring for children to be put through such hoops. Some people will die before they can ‘retire’. Also as you get older you are not as strong and resilient, have arthitis etc.

        Personally I believe that all beneficiaries of all ages should be expected to do some voluntary work, even a few hours a week. They should not be forced to do more hours than they can cope with but we should all put something in today for the money we get today, not be talking about entitlements built up over a lifetime and past tax paid etc. etc.

        Voluntary work takes many forms. Some people are looking after grand-children, that’s important work. Someone in a wheelchair could read to or play piano etc for children or old or immobile people. A friend with an injury handicap cleans a community pool. I am retired, and work at an op shop.

        There are all sorts of tasks to suit different people’s interests or talents. Some alcoholic or drug dropouts cannot or will not follow systems. and be unreliable workers. But they should be expected to do something, even if it just helping with the washing up at the meal centre where they eat. There is a local work gang that does outside jobs fences etc. where not all the workers turn up every day and the work has to be constantly supervised but they get to participate, learn and give their skills and time.

  4. PK 4

    “Beneficiary bashing is particularly evil when it is not accompanied by a policy of full employment -it is effectively designating a group of people to be targets for public vilification.”

    Please explain why there shouldn’t be work testing procedures. It’s also difficult for individual GP’s in small towns to turn people down. Providing a more rigorous assessment process is perfectly reasonable given the amount of money involved.

    • Bright Red 4.1

      there are working testing procedures already numbnuts. If a person isn’t sick or an invalid, WINZ shouldn’t be paying them. That’s the case already.

  5. PK 5

    “there are working testing procedures already numbnuts. If a person isn’t sick or an invalid, WINZ shouldn’t be paying them. That’s the case already.”

    Are there? In that case, that’s great 🙂 The only other concern I’d have would be that some independent medical assessment be provided. Preferably by an experienced occupational medicine specialist.

    • DeeDub 5.1

      And the “experienced occupational medicine specialists” would be tasked with rooting out the nasty, bludging sickness beneficiaries who are using their various physical and mental illnesses (in collusion with a cartel of evil, corrupt socialist doctors) as pathetic excuses to avoid a good days hard graft, eh PK?

      • PK 5.1.1

        Yes, that is the point (grossly simplified and caricatured).

        If you re-read my comment I’m not suggesting the Doctors are corrupt, socialist or otherwise. I’m pointing out that they are placed in terribly difficult position and having an independent assessor who isn’t the local GP to support them would be helpful.

        The reason why I suggest an Occupational Medicine Specialist is that they have the background to advise how particular impairments affect work capacity.

  6. Pete 6

    Though the eligibility/review system (for Invalid’s and Sickness Benefit) is not perfect – it is widely documented – look at the Work and Income website for info – it’s all there.

    Also, failings within the Work and Income process for determining Sickness and Invalid’s Benefit eligibility were given a run-through by the OAG (report released October 2009).

    If it really is a problem – as Key et al propose (ignoring the bile) – then they have a pretty sound basis to create and implement better checks and balances (and help ‘frontline’ staff!).

    However, the most important thing is headlines, looking tough and passing the buck – hence “the previous government encouraged a move off the unemployment benefit into those categories, which aren’t work tested”.

    Pure B.S., but then the blame-game is just so good for polling…

  7. BLiP 7

    Frog blog mentioned this a while ago – skewering that occasional and vitriolic “welfare state” commentator in the process – and pointing out National Ltdâ„¢’s willingness to bash the beneficiaries yet ignore the real criminals.

    Was it Howard Scott who defined a ciminal as:

    A person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation.

  8. b 8

    There are definitely people who are lazy or have drug or gambling problems ripping off the sickness benefit. But no one would suggest the majority of sickness beneficiaries are not sick. A minority will always rip off any welfare system but toughening the system to weed out these people would cause greater harm to more people (through making it harder for genuinely sick people) than leaving it as it is.

  9. aj 9

    The reason why I have such contempt for the National Party and the Right in general is that they think it’s ok for Bill English to rort the housing system for tens of thousands of $ a year, Rodney & Roger to bludge the taxpayer for his trips overseas, but then to constantly attack the weak – the people who are ill or unemployed and in need of state assistance for survival.
    The hypocrisy of these people make me vomit.

    • blinded by the right 9.1

      Bill English was entitled to the allowance based on the decisions of two Speakers (one a Labour MP) despite the bad look. Same as Hide and Douglas – bad look, but not illegal.

      People committing benefit fraud are breaking the law.

      • zelda 9.1.1

        The previous ‘decisions’ you talk about were a rubber stamp by Parliamentary services not an actual ‘ruling by the speaker’

        It wasnt till he wanted to transfer the lease of his family home ( owned by his trust) to be paid for by Ministerial Services that he claimed it wasnt a pecuniary interest when it was.
        Technically he was breaking the law as he made a false statement and if a beneficiary would have have had the book thrown at him.

        That is why he paid it back so as to make it go away

  10. aj 10

    Bling etc are rorting the sytem after preaching to the rest of us self-responsibility and the need to be frugal. Bling in particular manipulated his affairs to maximise his bludging from you and I.
    Most people on benefits are getting them for entirely valid and legal reasons.

    • blinded by the right 10.1

      Then they have nothing to fear do they?

      No matter what you say about “Bling” etc, they were entitled to what they took. Should they have taken it? Probably not. But not really the point.

      • aj 10.1.1

        @ 5:37

        And what is your point?

        Mine is that ” the Right in general is that they think it’s ok for Bill English to rort the housing system for tens of thousands of $ a year, Rodney & Roger to bludge the taxpayer for his trips overseas, but then to constantly attack the weak the people who are ill or unemployed and in need of state assistance for survival”

        I don’t think I’m defending benefit fraud here, and if you think differently you need to lift your comprehension

  11. b 11

    “Then they have nothing to fear do they? ”

    Actually they do – If National goes ahead with making people reapply periodically, go to designated drs, constantly get rechecked ( i think they were saying monthly?) by drs, people who are genuinely sick will have a lot more stress and a lot of added expense. They will have to pay transport costs to get to their extra winz appointments and doctors assesments and extra doctors fees monthy. I dont hear national suggesting compensation for these costs.

  12. randal 12

    heck…all these doctors on here discussing sick people.
    where do they get the time.
    how many of you have got bachelors degrees in medicine and chemistry and chirurgery?

  13. belladonna 13

    Invalid beneficiaries do have to go to an independent dr every 2 years. That has been the situation for many years. It would be good if the media actually bothered to check their facts for once.

  14. Maddy 14

    Since I left school at 15, I have worked hard for 25 years. Never once applying for a benefit. Last November I suffered a stress related breakdown as a result of my CEO misleading shareholders with false reporting (inflated figures) I refused to be party to this and was consequently bullied and harassed out of my job. A long story short, I found that I could not work. I was diagnosed with depression and given medication. I refused to believe that I could not pick myself up and start again, but as anyone who can relate will tell you, it takes a long time to feel normal again.I had to accept that I could not work until I was better. I went on a sickness benefit last August. At first I felt ashamed. Now I realise that every day there is someone out there in New Zealand, just like me, who through no fault of there own, find themselves incapacitated and unable to perform basic tasks to maintain an income and living. They are sick. And yes, your tax dollar is paying for this benefit, just like mine paid for others.

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