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Punishing unemployed won’t help

Written By: - Date published: 9:11 am, February 25th, 2010 - 22 comments
Categories: unemployment - Tags:

The Dom has a story about Benjamin Easton, an activist for keeping Manners Mall in Wellington traffic-free, boasting that he is on the dole so he has time for his activism. The guy sounds like a bit of a dick, frankly, and WINZ has called him in for work testing since you can only get the dole if you are trying to find work.

Paula Bennett is naturally claiming that this is an example of the need for her welfare reforms.

Umm, no it’s not. WINZ can already kick Easton off the dole if they discover he isn’t trying to get work. Having every person on the dole reapply after a year would not have caught Easton. All it does is waste WINZ’s resources re-approving genuinely unemployed workers leaving fewer resources for helping people into work.

That’s where National should really be directing its attention: towards matching people with work, becoming more like a jobs centre. That would actually help things. Punitive measures against people who genuinely want to find work will not.

22 comments on “Punishing unemployed won’t help ”

  1. Bill 1

    So is worthwhile work is only to be defined as having a job that generates profit for others?

    Why isn’t this guy receiving a social wage to assist him in the work he does?

    Or alternatively, why can he not receive a benefit along the lines of the one for artists on the dole ( can’t remember the term for it, I’m sure others can). After all, activism can produce far more socially beneficial results than art. So why not pay rather than impose a double whammy of disadvantage? (UB is already an inadequate income, never mind suspension of payments for engaging in work of a ‘wrong’ type.)

  2. Duncan 2

    The guy strikes me as an idiot. If you give him the dole for his misinformed and frankly annoying “political busking” then I want a benefit to sit around reading improving books in cafes and striking up conversations with strangers to tell them what I’ve learned. Can we all do that? Great. Just one question though – in your world who has to work in the factories or clean up shit and vomit for a living?

  3. As you point out Marty, WINZ already has the ability to suspend the dole to people that have the ability to work but for varying reasons avoid doing so.
    Paula Bennett is just trying to cloud the issues and show us how incompetent she actually is.
    She would be better to put procedures in place that assist people that might with the aid of an operation or councelling be able to go back to work and become a productive member of society.
    A number of years ago i advocated for a friend to and get WINZ to pay of a gastric bi-pass operation which would have assisted him to get back to work. As expected, WINZ did not have assistance in place to accomplish this resulting in this person still being on a benefit 8 years later. Can you imagine the savings that would have been achieved if they had paid the 12 or so grand at that time to do the operation privately. Something in the region of $100 thou in my estimate.

  4. Why isn’t this guy receiving a social wage to assist him in the work he does?

    I’m picking it’s because there’s no such thing as a social wage.

    Paula Bennett is naturally claiming that this is an example of the need for her welfare reforms.

    You bet. She’s got no genuine example indicating a need for her “reforms,” but large numbers of people are going to be outraged by this dumbass so why not try and harness it? Good politics, bad governance – we should be used to it by now.

  5. artist not on the dole 5

    dear Bill,
    and others who are misinformed

    Being an Artisit and having had the misfortune of being unemployed in the past, i can assure you there is no such thing as the ‘artist on the dole’ benefit that you refer to. It is an urban myth that has somehow been ingrained into the social psyche . WINZ simply acknowledge that Artist is a legitimate career title for your employment categorization records, and you are receiving the same benefit with all the same requirements as other registered unemployed persons, including work testing etc.

    Also it allows for sales of Art to be acknowledged as income for supplementary income adjustments, such as they ludicrous $80 pw gross that a beneficiary is allowed to earn before losing 70c in the dollar in secondary tax.

    • Bill 5.1

      There is a scheme. Definitely.

      I don’t think there is much more to it than being subject to showing WINZ that you are progressing on a particular artistic project or set of projects rather than being subjected to the same work testing as others who have not claimed to be undertaking artistic endeavours.

      My question in relation to the post would be as to why an activist who can verify their work should not be in a similar position vis a vis the work testing regime.


      • artist not on the dole 5.1.1

        I speak from personal experiences.
        all work test requirements are exactly the same
        job seeking requirements are exactly the same
        training seminar requirements are exactly the same

        do you see a pattern here Bill? there is no special treatment of any sort if a person is trying to further an artistic career whilst receiving unemployment.
        Now why this particular benficiary is not employed yet would be a question for the WINZ case worker responsible. Also remember that WINZ has almost zero job placement opportunities. At any time the amount of positions on their books would place perhaps 3% of those registered into employment. They stopped being an employment agency over a decade ago, now they simply help turnover minimal wage jobs.

        • Bill

          “all work test requirements are exactly the same.”

          No they’re not.

          From the link I provided earlier it is clear that they are allowed to narrow their definition of work and be considered ‘artistic or cultural job seekers’….ie, they won’t be forced to take up a job in a cardboard box factory or penalised for refusing such employment as long as they have applied to be a part of and continue to satisfy the criteria set out under PACE ( Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment).

          All I’m questioning, in the absence of a social wage, is why there is no equivalent to PACE covering the activities and experience of genuine activists on the UB?

          “Work and Income recognises that the employment environment in which artists and cultural workers develop their careers has particular characteristics. Each Job Seeker Agreement is tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual and is negotiated by the artist and the Case Manager.”

          Will an artist on the PACE programme have to accept offers of employment?

          PACE is focused on helping arts and cultural job seekers find and develop employment opportunities that are suited to their training, skills and employment goals. Therefore artists will be expected to accept employment that matches their skills and assists them in their professional development. If they do not, as with all other work test beneficiaries, sanctions may be imposed.

  6. tc 6

    Now I know why some mothers eat their young…….enjoy your single term in office PB unless you get elevated up the Nat list it’s hard to see you holding that westy seat with your performances.

  7. Rich 7

    It’s another case of Bennett interfering in operational affairs and using her position to attack individuals; on a par with Muldoon (?) leading the cops against rugby protesters.

    The person in question is most likely diagnosable. He spends his day chalking the pavements outside MoJ and in Manners Mall with bizarre accusations of corruption. He also engages in expensive vexatious litigation, which probably costs the state many times his dole payments. I’d suspect that any doctor would sign him off as unemployably insane in a few minutes and put him on the sickness benefit, which is probably what will happen.

    Mind you, there is a certain person who lives off handouts from the government while spending his day making bizarre, scurrilous accusations, albeit on the Internet. Will they cut his payments now as well?

  8. BLiP 8

    What a chilling message to those in receipt of social welfare payments: dissent will be crushed.

    Anyone heard an update on how the Privacy Commissioner is getting on with the complaint about Basher Bennett?

  9. $2bob 9

    PAULA BENEFIT as she should be called should know better than to bash people who barely exist on the money they receive.
    I do believe there are a certain no of people that should be called to account, she is targeting people just to get media attention.
    this Govt is focused on Fooling the people into thinking they ARE doing something about many social issues, but in fact its all about media exposure focused on the next Election……they are Desperate ……..and its beginning to show………Look out the Maori Party, your next to be rolled………Super city indeed, what a ROB MY HIDE joke.

  10. Olwyn 10

    What is particularly galling is that a policy of full employment is anathema to these people, and yet they do all they can to inflame anti-beneficiary feelings. It is the most evil thing to do to people, and it happened under National’s last watch, when Dr Brash was in charge of the reserve bank. The message to 4% upward of the population is: you cannot work because that might put our policy of measly wages under pressure, and you cannot not work because we don’t want you getting away with sitting on your arse. Who the hell are these people, to presume to treat their fellow human beings in such a way?

    • Kevin Welsh 10.1

      Yes Olwyn, its same old National, once again. I read this article every few months to remind myself of what these clowns are about. The article is four-and-a-half years old now and is as true today as it was then. I just substitute the words ‘Don Brash’ with ‘Bill English’.

  11. SPC 11

    As Olwyn points out, a beneficiary bashing, coinciding with a deliberate economic policy to prevent full employment, is probably a crime against humanity. And as Paula Bennett makes clear anyone complaining about that (of course National feeds information to its own beneficiary blogsters) while unemployed had better be careful. That’s about as anti-social as government gets.

  12. tc 12

    Crikey SPC watch out…..they’ll take that as a challenge and attempt to be even more anti social….don’t underestimate how low this mob can go….you aint seen nothing yet

  13. SPC 13

    Unfortunately there is a strategy behind their approach. Most people have jobs, those on benefits are a minority.

    National, in general, transfers wealth to the few and underfunds services to the many (one exception is road use because this serves private business), so they need issues on which they can gather the many on their side against some minority.

    Thus they need to perpetuate a beneficiary class, to use as a fall guy – so they need to prevent full employment while blaming the beneficiary for their lack of employment. The thing is to condition the worker to be accountable for continuing to be one of the good people who are employed and to fear being seen as one of the bad minority who is unemployed. A bit like being set free from being a persecuted minority by having work.

    You can look at the pattern with immigrant minorities, racial and ethnic minorities and otherwise morality issues which have been used for the same purposes. Then of course is the over-arching role of law and order related to all of the above and profiling minorities as outside of the mainstream – most of course will be no where as near as wealthy as a small elite presiding over the politics of all this.

  14. Frank Macskasy 14

    The worst that could be said of Benjamin Easton’s claim that he had no
    intention of looking for work (26 Feb, Dom Post) is that his comments are
    misguided and provocative. He has given ammunition to those who
    believe that welfare is a lifestyle-option for many New Zealanders and
    that the dole somehow offers a “life of luxury”.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. At $191 per week, nett, for a
    single person 18, the dole is subsistance living at best. An extra
    payment for accomodation does not cover the full costs of rent or
    mortgage payments.

    The reality is, simply that most unemployed desperately want to get of
    the dole and into paid work. Existing on $191 a week holds little
    attraction for 99% of beneficiaries.

    This is backed up by the report headed “More Growth, but No Jobs” (26
    Feb) in the same edition of the Dom Post, and which stated, “…so it
    remains a jobless recovery this year with retailers still planning to
    lay of more staff.” Nothing could better illustrate the hopelessness
    of growing unemployment and fewer jobs than the recent situation in
    Manukau, where a new Countdown supermarket advertised 150 vacancies. (http://tinyurl.com/ybvn623)

    Two thousand five hundred people turned up and queued for those 150 positions.

    We desperately need two things in this country,

    1. More jobs for the 160,000+ unemployed, who lost their jobs through
    the recession..

    2. For Mr Easton to engage his brain before operating his mouth.

  15. Frank Macskasy 15

    Rich, I suspect you’re 100% correct: Easton most likely has mental problems…

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