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Poverty Watch 14

Written By: - Date published: 10:37 am, December 1st, 2012 - 27 comments
Categories: national, poverty - Tags: ,

Welcome to Poverty watch, a weekly update on the National government’s lack of response to the urgent and growing issue of poverty in NZ. A lot of background issues and links are set out in Poverty Watch one two and three.

On Thursday Bryan Bruce’s excellent Inside Child Poverty documentary was re-run on TV3 (as recommended by the Child Poverty Action Group). This documentary, as you will recall, first screened four days before the last election, and created quite a stir. The National government, immediately after the election, were so embarrassed by the screening that they immediately vowed to address the issues raised and end child poverty in NZ. Ha ha – just kidding. The National government, immediately after the election, were so embarrassed by the screening that they immediately initiated steps to make sure that showing such a programme during an election campaign can’t happen again. All part of their abiding commitment to free speech and democracy. Just ask ECAN. But I digress.

In other poverty related news Sam Kuha ended his 30 day hunger strike for child poverty, and met with Paula Bennett for the view from Planet Key:

Ms Bennett acknowledged times were hard for many Northlanders but told him she could not keep handing out money. Instead she had to try to fix the causes, in particular some young parents’ poor parenting skills.

There and I thought the cause of poverty was not enough money, not enough jobs, and a government that doesn’t give a damn. (Am I grumpy this morning or what?) The same beneficiary bashing attitude underlies the Nats’ legislative agenda.  The Child Poverty Action Group tells it like it is:

Social Security Bill – Poorly researched and ideological

Thursday, 29 November 2012, 3:57 pm
Press Release: Auckland Action Against Poverty

Auckland Action Against Poverty will present their submission on the Social Security Amendment Bill to the Select Committee tomorrow morning at 10.35am, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

“We will be letting the Committee know that we think this Bill is poorly researched and ideologically driven, and will go down in history as a cynical, invasive, petty, dishonest, illogical, authoritarian and counter-productive piece of welfare recession.

“This Bill will change the aim of state welfare from a safety net to a tool of behaviour coercion.

“Those in need of state assistance are going to be asked to jump through hoops that others are not and control over their lives will be taken away from them.

“Only the noble poor – those deemed morally worthy of our help – will be given help – and they better not make mistakes. … “The welfare system will become an interfering, invasive Nanny State with a big stick – for no gain. Punishment is not the way to change behaviour.

“We will be letting the Select Committee know that what we need is Decent Job Creation, a living wage, recognition that care work is real work, a raise in the benefit payment rate and the full reinstatement of the Training Incentive allowance, not this counterproductive piece of welare recession”.

Want to help the CPAG? Here’s how.

One last snippet. Yet another group of doctors, this time the Paediatric Society, make a call for action:

Poverty and the adverse impact it has on children’s health was among the subjects discussed at the Paediatric Society’s annual conference, which wrapped up in Palmerston North yesterday.

An estimated one in five children in New Zealand live in poverty. A raft of preventable diseases, including rheumatic fever, skin infections and respiratory illnesses are reported at much higher rates in low socio-economic areas. …

Prof Asher urged her colleagues to talk to their local MPs, Ministry of Health staff, service groups, schools and anyone else they could share their knowledge with. She gave numerous statistics comparing New Zealand’s record on child health with other OECD countries, the correlation between poverty and several diseases and between government policy and rates of poverty.

Co-convener and housing spokesperson for CPAG Alan Johnson spoke about New Zealand’s shortage of affordable housing and the economic and government factors that had driven it. Poverty in New Zealand was not because of a scarcity of resources he said, but because of how those resources were distributed. Poverty existed because society allowed it to.

Never fear, the Nats are hard at work redistributing resources. Upwards.

Poverty Watch always ends with the following list, the National government’s response to rising poverty in NZ:

• National has not yet set any target for reducing poverty
• ?


27 comments on “Poverty Watch 14”

  1. AsleepWhileWalking 1

    Has someone pointed out to Bennett that one reason for poverty is right under her nose – that is Work and Income failing to assess clients and provide them with their full and complete entitlement under the Social Securities Act?

    Sounds like this is a strong contributing factor in poverty, particularly in Sam’s case. Why was he missing out on the $100 extra each week that he was recently found to be entitled to receive? How long had this been going on and how many thousands of dollars did it amount to?

    Most importantly how many others who live in “poverty” are in the same situation and being short changed by the government?

    • Mary 1.1

      Yes, people are underpaid as a matter of course. But this doesn’t mean that if people did in fact receive their full entitlement that we can say everything would be fixed because if that were the case then the logical conclusion would be that basic benefits are adequate and that’s simply wrong. It’s a bit more complex than that. Basic benefit rates haven’t increased in real terms since the cuts in 1991, and the shift towards a greater reliance on the add-on extra benefits just to get by have changed the landscape considerably. People missing out on what they’re entitled to is one problem, but the adequacy of basic benefit rates including the way the benefit system in general is now structured is a separate issue.

  2. prism 2

    Report on conversation of Sam Kuha with Poorer Benefit. (Incidentally he exemplifies the fighting spirit that took the Maori Battalion to war, demanding recognition of worth as people with rights that should be respected.)

    Regarding his being refused a food grant, she told him policies were not always carried out on the ground as written.

    This is actually true and has been long observed and noted in social policy studies. Therefore the desire to deliver what has been agreed by government should lead immediately to an advocate who can be appealed to SEPARATE from Winz. It shouldn’t be just shrugged off apologetically or not, by the Minister. She has admitted the truth, that she can’t ensure that departmental management will ensure that people are treated fairly and correctly.

    If not remedied by NACTs I am sure that Labour will act immediately when in power to fill this gap in their own past adminstration.

  3. David H 3

    And then there was this little gem that was quickly hidden.


    “Paula Bennett’s action plan to rescue vulnerable children has been dismissed as “an exercise in window dressing” with almost $400,000 spent on consultants. ”

    Could this be the final screw up that she allowed to get away with? And then you can tell her to ‘Zip’

    But then again

    • xtasy 3.1

      Monies spent for the “window dressing” exercise – under the Minister of “bursting zips” (I wonder how many of her dresses have “burst” at the seams, given the evident results of her generous nutrition):

      “WHO GOT WHAT?

      Sandra Alofivae: South Auckland barrister – $30,000 for “meeting facilitation” over five months

      Norm Hewitt: $20,000 for “meeting facilitation” over five months

      Powerhouse people: recruitment consultants – $57,533 for policy analysis, submissions support and “action plan” advice

      Audio Transcription and Secretarial Services: transcription – $420

      Barnardos: “facilitation” – $10,000 over four months

      Careering Options: Recruitment agency – $52,074 for “project management” between November and April

      Cognizant Technology Solutions: Database support – $1980

      David Balham: Communications adviser – $9500 for an “engagement strategy”

      JacksonStone and Partners: Recruitment consultants – $159,870 for an “engagement manager”

      Kylie van Delden: Policy adviser – $7913 over two months

      Lee-Anne Duncan: Freelance copywriter – $16,905 over two months

      Saatchi & Saatchi: Advertising firm – $8775 over one month.”

      …As quoted from the relevant stuff.co article – from today, as I suppose!

      Now, who of those recipients may perhaps also be some good old “friend(s)” of hers or her colleagues ???

    • prism 3.2

      David H
      “$400,000 spent on consultants”. I don’t want to hear that. Too much information. It’s depressing and no wonder that so many NZs are topping themselves. I was looking at a 2005 Listener and then the suicides, or was it the murders, (all the same to the dead) exceeded the deaths from car accidents.

      This double book-keeping of neo lib economists has got us nearly blindfolded. Salaries and staff must be kept to a budget but there is a honey jar that can be dipped into for these bloody consultants. I know they offer special abilities and experience but are being used to replace workers on normal pay packets, and it justs has an effect to skew and screw the effective running of government and adjunct agencies.

  4. Mary 4

    It was found that Sam Kuha had been missing out on about $100 a week. I just hope that Bennett and her mob made sure he was paid the arrears that were owed to him.

    There are countless people on benefits who are routinely underpaid, and this is on top of an inadequate basic benefit to start with. Heaven help us if this is how we treat our most vulnerable.

    • xtasy 4.1

      There are endless such cases, where clients do not get paid what they are actually entitled to. Bennett’s comment that policies were not always carried out on the ground as written is a ridiculous comment for her to make.

      As a matter of fact MSD and WINZ do not mind that this happens, indeed they even expect that their front-line staff apply criteria in a way, so that costs are saved. They used to reward case managers with bonuses when they made decisions that saved WINZ costs. I am unsure whether that is still the case, but it was years ago applied in such a manner.

      Bennett would know full well that this kind of stuff happens, just unfortunately WINZ got caught out, because Sam Kuha is a principled and determined person, so he took the actions that we all know now.

      That exposed what hard line staff at WINZ apply, and this is just one example.

      Sam’s belief that this has been “fixed now” means nothing much, as that maybe what he was told, but I bet you, that all will carry on as usual.

      A few years back I met a man who suffered a brain trauma during and after a hit and run accident, where he was knocked off his bike. He was in hospital and rehab for months, with multiple fractures.

      After he was allowed back home, with only little improvement to regain his memory and brain functions, I learned that he was only paid the base benefit rate as an invalid. When I phoned the case manager to raise this, given he had housing-, disability-related and other costs, they guy rudely just said, “well, he did not apply for that”.

      We learned recently, where a dismissed worker was told over the phone by WINZ staff, that she had to first use up her redundancy pay, before she would qualify for a benefit. That was wrong, but she found out later.

      If all beneficiaries would claim and get what they deserve, then this would increase costs, and the government will turn around and find ways to “recover” them, possibly by cutting some entitlements for all beneficiaries.

      When any person applies for a benefit, they should inform themselves well, by seeing an advocate or at least looking up info via the internet or so. Then ask as many questions as possible, to cover everything that may be worth claiming for. Staff will generally only answer to questions asked, and if they are not asked about an entitlement, they will usually not happily and willingly tell you.

    • AsleepWhileWalking 4.2

      Absolutely, and I agree with Xtasy as that has been my experience and many other people I know of.

      We need a blogger/advocate to check with Sam that arrears have been paid. This fungus needs some sun.

  5. xtasy 5

    AAAP and some others delivered very good submissions to the Social Services Committee that heard submitters yesterday in Auckland.

    It was so noticeable, how the National MPs present were always trying to ask questions that were nothing but attempts to “compromise” statements made by submitters.

    What I found SHOCKING was that there was virtually NO MEDIA present. Also reading stories in the media, there is NO mention of the select committee hearings on the proposed, very radical and draconian welfare reforms, so as to imply, there is nothing of relevance to report on.

    So all this goes unreported, and it proves yet again, “poverty” is not “news-worthy”, unless it involves abuse by parents, crime, perverse sexual behaviour and the likes.

    I am totally appalled by this.

    For your information, the MPs present were: Sam Loto Iiga as chairperson, Melissa Lee, Jackie Blue Alfred Ngaro and Mike Sabin for National, Jacinda Ardern, Su’a William Sio, Rajen Prasad for Labour, Jan Logie for the Greens and Asenati Lole Taylor for NZ First.

    But we can all guess, they will all have made their minds up already and vote accordingly on the Social Security (Benefit Category and Work Focus) Amendment Bill, putting probably most into the law in unchanged wording.

    What a bloody disaster. So where is David Shearer on this, being the author of the “sickness beneficiary roofpainter” fairytale?

    • AsleepWhileWalking 5.1

      Yes, where is Shearer? For that matter what is his position on all of this?

      It would seem to me that anybody interested in addressing poverty in this country should first check the availability and acessability of benefits for all those in need of welfare including low income earners making any modification or current shortcomings of the SSA of paramount importance.

      • xtasy 5.1.1

        At least Jacinda has heard the soundings and wrote this:


        So I hope, I so DESPERATELY hope, that she sticks to the gun, stands up and takes Bennett to the cleaners, when the next 2nd reading will be in Parliament.

        Indeed I expect her to make more use of the media and hammer Bennett, Key and consorts, for the full and broad attack on the poorest and weakest in society.

        Or is it that the “media office” at Labour may not allow her to fire all available ammunition?

        I tend to have that sickish feeling down in my tummy.

        Jacinda, wake up, take a stand, show some principles and do not care about who is “leader” of Labour. Do your job, the more of this, the better. It can only be a start!

        • karol

          Agreed xtasy.  This should have been a major news item.  Instead we get….. Tamihere, Hobbits, Rugby….

          I saw the AAAP submission yesterday, and that they had fronted to hearing/panel.  They are doing a great job. 

      • Mary 5.1.2

        I was quite taken with Shearer’s speech at the time but now the dust has settled I realised I was swept away with what looked at that time to be Labour rediscovering its roots. What a fool I was – I’m hugely embarrassed about being so susceptible to something so weak and superficial. Shearer is and has always been and always will be no friend of the poor. For that reason, how ever nice a chap he may be, he needs to go.

  6. lefty 6

    CPAG (Child Poverty Action Group) and AAAP (Auckland Action Against Poverty) are different organisations. This post makes it appear they are the same.

    The submissions referred to were from AAAP.

    They are both very good organisations with one focusing on poverty through the lenses of Child Poverty and the other more of an activist group dealing with broader poverty issues

    Both are valiantly trying to provide a voice for the voiceless i.e. the one third of eligible voters who don’t bother turning up at the polls because they know the mainstream political parties and media don’t give a stuff about them and their children.

  7. xtasy 7

    On a submision criticising also the proposed stop of benefit benefit payments for persons against whom a warrant for arrest was issued, Mike Sabin asked a question along the lines like: What if your home was burgled, and the responsible persons being at large are still being able to draw the benefit, would you not find this unfair.

    The submitter stated that the whole process that is proposed is illegal, as MSD is not a law enforcement agency, as there were serious legal issues involved, and finally said: A person must be innocent until proved guilty.

    That though is not what the bill proposes. It treats clients and persons who may face a warrant as being guilty for the fact a warrant has been issued, even if that may be under wrong information, due to admin mistakes or whatever. Most warrants would likely be for failure to keep up with fine payments, or other minor obligations not being met. So why have WINZ become part of the police?

    The intention is clear, and Northland MP for National, Mike Sabin, as a former cop, will certainly have his “staunch” biased views on all this. There was much silence from other Nat MPs on other aspects the submitter raised. They rather appeared “gob smacked” by the information and competent knowledge the person presented, as one who had been affected by failures, mistakes and bias by WINZ staff and a commissioned designated doctor that was involved.

    • karol 7.1

      Thanks for the reports of the submissions, xtasy. A good answer on not being a law enforcement agency, innocent til proven guilty, etc.


      What if your home was burgled, and the responsible persons being at large are still being able to draw the benefit, would you not find this unfair.

      So shows he/they are first thinking of him/themselves.  They should be thinking more about the lives of those struggling on low incomes. But it seems it’s just all about those already comfortably off, trying to gate themselves away from the struggling poor.

  8. lefty 8

    Put bluntly what Sabin seems to be saying is if a person is accused of burglary they should have the means of support for themselves and their family removed and pushed out onto the streets to starve.

    Not a nice man.

    • xtasy 8.1

      If you follow that member’s track record in question time, and particularly the ones he asked to “the Minister” (Bennett), then you get a crystal clear picture of what that copper is about!

    • AsleepWhileWalking 8.2

      The key word there is “accused”. If the legislation passes beneficiaries are the only group of people who have their income stopped as soon as an arrest warrant is issued, despite not being found guilty of any crime.

      There are a number of white collar criminals I’d be far more concerned with if I were in the business of writing legislation.

      This legislation is really a slight variation of the benefit cheats being punished more severely than tax avoidance.

  9. xtasy 9

    Now I intruduce you to another “poverty loving” man, who happens to be my MP, damn it, but well, there were idiots enough to vote for him:


    Auckland Grammar, Auckland Uni and Commerce and Law, then a truly “public service career”, and most notably, “later” he moved to “England” and started a career at guess where: “Bankers Trust as a financial analyst”! He also moved to Sydney to work for Macquarie Bank”. Hey dudes, is this not a fitting and similar resume to Hone Key?

    He chairs the Social Services Committee, and I wonder what qualifies the man for that job!

    Are people so dumb and ignorant not to get the message? Well, given the shit msm media we have, most would have NO clue about all this, aye!?

    Fuck what am I doing here, I could be earning mega bucks with my insight and knowledge, could I not?

  10. karol 10

    AAAP really do have their s*it together.  An excellent bit of positive action coming up outside Onehunga WINZ office from Dec 10-12.

     Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) is running what is known as an “impact” outside the office from December 10 to 12.

    Spokeswoman Sarah Thompson says experienced advocates from around the northern region will set up trestle tables and chairs and assess the needs and current assistance being given to local beneficiaries and low-paid workers.

    AAAP expects to find many who are not receiving additional support that beneficiaries are often not informed of, she says. …

    On December 11, a political rally will be held at lunchtime featuring speakers from Labour, the Greens and the Mana Party.

    • prism 10.1

      Smarts from non government experienced people checking on the poorhouse government approach.

  11. I feel like vomiting, counting down the days till I get to leave to the airport. I dislike John Key more than Ronald Reagan or even George W. Bush, his welfare policies are pure evil.

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