Formerly proud to be a westie Paula Bennett has a particular role in Cabinet. She is the go to person when there is some sort of political trouble and attention needs to be diverted. Over the last couple of years she has been used a lot.
One of her more asinine proposals was the random drug testing of beneficiaries. Apparently the occasional use of recreational drugs was creating a moral crisis and preventing beneficiaries from obtaining employment. Of course this was all the fault of the beneficiary and had nothing to do with a lack of jobs being available.
Her approach runs counter to reality. Just before the 2008 election under Labour the unemployment rate was 4.1%. It is now 6.2% and there is a feeling that the figures are being massaged so that the true rate being under reported.
Of course using National’s world view this must mean that 2.1% of the population have become bludgers under its rule. If this is the case it should try and assess what it is doing wrong.
In August 2012 Bennett announced that there would be drug testing of beneficiaries. The same policy was announced 7 weeks before but National are obviously keen to milk bene bashing announcements as much as possible. According to the official release:
Under the current welfare system an unemployment beneficiary can decline to apply for an available drug-tested job, because they won’t pass the test, without consequence.
“Illegal drug use should not get in the way of getting a job if you are on a benefit,” says Mrs Bennett.
“Thousands of working New Zealanders are in jobs requiring they be clean of drugs; it’s reasonable to expect someone looking for work to do the same.”
Under welfare reforms coming into effect next year, it will be made clear to those on benefits with any work expectations that they must remain drug free in order to be able to take up suitable work opportunities.
This policy only applies to those with a work expectation attached to their benefit and only for available work opportunities requiring drug tests.
“Around 40 percent of the jobs listed with Work and Income require drug tests and it’s reasonable for employers to expect people to be drug free.”
Those on benefits with full or part-time work obligations will be sanctioned if they refuse job opportunities which require a drug test or if they fail a test.
One interesting aspect of this as noted by No Right Turn is that of jobs advertised with WINZ 40% required employer paid drug tests. Under Bennett’s proposal and the original tender document he concluded that beneficiaries had to pay for the test. It appears that this requirement may have been changed because a subsequent Stuff article suggested that a beneficiary only had to pay for a failed test the cost of which was put at over $100.
The first batch of results are in and the figures are shocking. Of 8,001 beneficiaries sent for testing only 22, yes 22, either failed the test or refused to take it. This is a fail rate of 0.27%. It appears that the state has paid in the vicinity of $1 million on testing beneficiaries who have given clean results.
Bennett with typical spin says that the result shows that the policy is working. Not knowing what the figure was before and having done no analysis whatsoever has not stopped her from coming to such a conclusion.
The CTU and beneficiary advocacy groups are calling for the policy to be scrapped.
The scheme is a colossal waste of time and money. Our taxpayer money is being burned so that Bennett can look like she is being tough on beneficiaries.