Salvation Army: welfare proposals ‘defining moment’

Written By: - Date published: 10:41 am, February 21st, 2011 - 23 comments
Categories: welfare - Tags: ,

I’ve been meaning to write about the Salvation Army’s superb State of the Nation report, but I haven’t managed to more than skim read it1, let alone put a post together on it.  So I thought I’d combine my few thoughts so far on it with this Sally Army story, about how the impending welfare changes of this government are a ‘defining moment’.

The welfare working group reports back tomorrow, with John Key having done the preparation for its harsh remedies himself with his comments that the use of foodbanks was a “lifestyle choice” and the result of “poor choices”.

Salvation Army Major Campbell Roberts sums up nicely what the response should be:

“We think that the pathway beyond welfare dependency is not more tightly controlled benefits, but better resourced schools, training opportunities and opening up workplaces to the marginalised … the rhetoric about moving people back into work is great, but you look at the average solo mum with three or four children.

“She might want to get to work but there’s all sorts of hurdles; there’s not adequate early childhood education, she doesn’t happen to live next to a workplace … and then the ability of the workplace, even if it wanted to, to be able to fit the constraints of looking after children who get sick often and things go wrong. And what happens when they come home from school and holidays?”

It is pointless forcing people to go back to work when there aren’t jobs for them to go to.  The most appropriate welfare reform John Key can undertake is to get our economy moving again.  The vast majority of Kiwis on benefits want to work, but under National 700 more people are joining the dole queue each week.

One wonders if this, along with asset sales, is the government’s attempt to be ‘bold’ in a way the Salvation Army criticised them for not being in their Report.  Shame the policies lack any vision however.

There has been nothing bold in the Government’’s political agenda despite any rhetoric which would have us think otherwise. […] Regrettably there is no big picture emerging from this State of the Nation report.2

Instead as National fiddles the tax system for their rich mates, doing nothing much as the economic crisis and recession continues, the progress that had been made by the last term of the Clark government has been reversed:

This report shows that child poverty rates have climbed back to where they were five years ago, that violence toward children and youth unemployment are as bad as they were five years ago, and that the educational disadvantage suffered by Maori children continues and may even be getting worse. […]

The problems of unaffordable housing, alcohol-­fuelled family violence, child poverty and youth disaffection are as they were four years ago. Despite their importance and despite the public concern expressed about them, little has changed. In effect meaningful social progress has stalled.

With no investment in our future, but spending hundreds of millions building new prisons whilst cutting $400 million from Early Childhood Education, inevitably we’re going backwards.  When we’re cutting skills, education and science and technology budgets we’re stripping our future.  When we’re failing to invest in the Cullen Fund. shifting pension burden to the young, we’re taxing our youth.  As Dame Anne Salmond says: an ‘‘aging society that doesn’’t care for its young has a death wish’’.  If our youth all leave the country because we’ve left too big a bill for them, can we blame them as we sit in our poverty-filled retirement?

National is justifying their cuts by successfully inducing media hysteria about debt, managing to get the borrowing $350 million/week number out there (including $120 million / week for their tax cuts for the rich).  In fact private debt is finally decreasing and Treasury’’s most recent forecasts suggest a cash shortfall of around $5 billion this financial year and Government’s overall operating position moving back into surplus in 2011/12.  As the Sallies put it:

Between 2004 and 2008 debt seemed such a good thing as New Zealanders dug themselves into a $90 billion pit of debt to buy bigger houses, wider TVs and smaller mobile phones. Few people in the media commented on this profligacy and foolishness yet now they are presenting debt as the limiting factor for having Government do anything other than bail out many of the people who profited from this profligacy and foolishness.

So we can afford to invest in our future, we don’t need to demonise the poor, and we don’t need to sell off those assets our ancestors built up for us.

And we need a new government who realises this.

1 I can heartily recommend reading the foreword and report cards for those short on time.

2 Yes, the Sallies also criticise the Clark government for a lack of vision with their not dealing with the housing bubble etc, but at least they were making progress on society’s ills.

23 comments on “Salvation Army: welfare proposals ‘defining moment’”

  1. Tiger Mountain 1

    The sallies are correct, the welfare ‘reforms’ will officially define a moment when once and for all the tories turned their backs on nearly one third of the population. A virtual declaration of war on the most vulnerable new zealanders.

    Tomorrows release of the Rebstock report will also define the start of Keys election year “turbocharged” bash the dirty filthy benes onslaught, to assist his re-election.
    • the pyschology and message to the 75% of new zealanders who give or take a dollar or two, are worse off since 2008 is: if you are doing it hard put the boot into those doing it harder.
    • the jobs are not there, but it does not matter, the Natz spinners just need you to scapegoat and vote for them.
    Revolting stuff, please don’t just leave it to the usual unemployed networks to protest, get involved, it could be you some time soon that is driven half crazy by WINZ/MSD as you sink into the underclass.

  2. Campbell Roberts, and his team, are, in Social Policy and especially Housing terms, a constant force for good. They took Labour to task quite properly in the three terms of Labour-led power. They are equally tough on the current government. We need more of this type of informed, engaged commentary.

  3. Colonial Viper 3

    From the front of the report. Listen up Labour. National have no problem introducing radical change to benefit the wealthy. Now we need radical change to benefit the poor, the working class, the middle class.

    There has been nothing bold in the Government’s political agenda despite any rhetoric which would have us think otherwise. In hindsight there was nothing bold in the last Government’s agenda either—simply a seriesof programmes which dealt pragmatically with the problems of the day without really ever addressing the underlying causes of these problems. The failure of the Labour-­led
    Governmets of 1999 to 2008 to deal with the housing bubble is a case in point.

  4. SPC 4

    It’s interesting that the report explicitly excluded focus on the rate of benefit but

    1. there is the suggestion of lower rates after the first year (when historically there has been a higher rate on longer term benefits because the base benefit for the dole is set at a temporary subsistence level – and this was all prior to the 91 cut-backs).
    2. there are costs to be met to comply with work-testing that reduce the amount of discretionary money available. Such as cost of application – letters etc/CV preparation etc/using library email if one does not have a home PC/compliance visits to W and I/and the most expensive of all travel to interviews – apparently W and I tell people to visit workplaces to cold call completely unaware people do not have any money to afford this.

    We are apparantly going to see people with children having less money to feed their children (or pay power bills etc) because of their work test costs – and then after a year of that then having their benefit reduced if they are still on a benefit they have to look for work while they have even less money left over to support their children.

    One thing about it all that I suspect that the government has not factored in – Treasury forecasts of unemployment falling to 6% this year and 5% next can no longer be accurate. Because if someone is work-tested they are then categorised as unemployed. That means we will jump up the international ladder and give the government the notoriety it deserves.

    The irony of it is that this will cost the government extra and benficiaries will be worse off – and child poverty will incrrease. It reminds me of 90’s work for the dole – but on a grander scale.

    In the USA they now use debt cards in place of food stamps and some propose that these be coloured orange (prison uniform colour) – so one can more easily appreciate the ghetto language and symbolism. The old term for it was poor laws.

    The point is to make those in work pathetically grateful and feel that they are of a separate and included in the system group – fearful and compliant for having it so good – but only in a relative sense. A brave new world market where no one dares to get left behind or else.

    • Vicky32 4.1

      “In the USA they now use debt cards in place of food stamps and some propose that these be coloured orange (prison uniform colour) – so one can more easily appreciate the ghetto language and symbolism. The old term for it was poor laws.”
      Oh, for heaven’s sake! Unbelievable… I can see that it would be popular here, sadly.

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    Greens: Save On Welfare Without Harsh Cuts

    “The minimum wage is so low that often people working full-time on it still need welfare support to make ends meet,” Green Party Work and Income Spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said

    If you pay people enough then they don’t need government welfare. Simple really and yet the political-right just don’t seem to understand that and actually want to lower wages.

  6. billy fish 6

    I am picking that the NACT governments response to Social Welfare issues will be an exact copy of the UK Governments responses.
    There are so many similarities of message and “substance” that one would almost think the policy is coming from the same source.
    Plus the U turns on unpopular but disposable policy is scarily similar

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      Well Labour NZ should be in frequent contact with Labour UK and the Fabians then 🙂

    • Draco T Bastard 6.2

      There are so many similarities of message and “substance” that one would almost think the policy is coming from the same source.

      It probably is.

      • Bunji 6.2.1

        Conservatives & National are both Crosby|Textor clients…

        • Colonial Viper

          LOL…C|T are probably just retitling the powerpoints they do for one crowd, doing a few ‘find and replace’ searches and charging the second crowd for it as well. Perfect.

    • Jum 6.3

      You’ll be wanting to check out Lord Ashcroft’s profile then, lad, and his conservative group’s plan to control all countries.

      He is an adviser of Cameron’s. In fact, didn’t he get a plum job in the new government? He travelled here to advise JKeyll just before the 2008 election. He travels the world advising conservative parties, whether in government or not to plot the takeover of governments and the sovereignty of citizens.

      Want to know something really scary? Pictures of Cameron and wife/Key and wife – scarily similar in face, dress colour and style. Sends a chill down the back; nobody seems to have noticed there are clones in Parliament…

  7. joe90 7

    Once upon a time I gave generously to the sallies but then they outed themselves…. as bigots wrapped up as caring Christians.

    • ianmac 7.1

      Yes. At the time I was a bit pipped about their stance but then on balance they do get stuck in, get their hands dirty even if under the cloak of Religion. So they once again my favourite National charity.

    • Vicky32 7.2

      Sorry, that’s just juvenile, to put your sex life before other peoples’ needs.

      • The Voice of Reason 7.2.1

        You appear to assume that Joe90 and/or Ianmac are gay, Deb. That sort of trivialises a significantly popular movement toward equality and fairness in NZ. I’m not gay, which is a matter of chance, but I marched up the appropriately named Queen St back in the eighties to get some semblance of balance into our laws. I stopped giving to the Salvo’s at the same time, after they attacked the reform bill as being the work of the devil (I paraphrase).

        The Salvation Army do good work. Their spokesperson is on the money regarding poverty. But the last time I looked they were still old testament bigots when it came to sexuality.

        • Vicky32

          “But the last time I looked they were still old testament bigots when it came to sexuality.”
          By your standards, so am I! (An ‘Old-Testament bigot’…) It’s interesting that many of the people who get angriest about the condemnation of gayness in the OT, the people who like to pretend that rules about mixed fabrics are somehow relevant, and that the OT is as binding on Christians as the NT is, don’t know that the NT is no happier with gaiety than the old!
          So, by you, it’s okay to condemn people who help others, not because they harm gays or even want to, but because they don’t whole-heartedly approve and applaud?
          Those who say “I’ll never give even 20c to help the poor if it goes to a church” are the bigots, not us.
          Deb (in sorrow and disappointment.)

          • The Voice of Reason

            Well, thanks for clearing that up for me, Deb! It’s comforting to know the happy clappy NT is just as biased as the OT. I don’t usually condemn religious bigots, per se, I just don’t give them my money because I know it goes, at least in part, to promoting their delusions of moral superiority. Because there is no god, all churches are led by liars and followed by fools.

            I thought I was quite generous in my assessment of the good work the Salvation Army does, but that’s as far as it goes. And the little good work individuals church members do cannot diminish the greater acts of evil that organised religions have bought to the world, usually in god’s name, but actually for the profit of the minority in control.

            Still, I do quite like the Xmas break, so we’ll be keeping that after the revolution.

            • Jum

              Captcha: Informations

              No, The Voice of Reason, In the beginning there was a God and she was woman until the Christians came along, pinched the pagan rites by calling them something else and closed down all the sacred centres for worshipping the God of woman and they’ve been trying to destroy womankind ever since. So after the revolution, we’ll get back to worshipping our woman God.

        • joe90

          Not gay and TVR has hit the nail on the head, old testament bigots with an interest in some else’s bedroom proclivities.

  8. Jum 8

    I used to donate to the Sally Army until I saw a huge back of their magazine advertisement for the Promisekeepers, yet another religious extreme right American invention, that promised to be good men and husbands as long as their wives stopped wanting to be treated as equal human beings.

    They have huge rallies in Auckland annually when all these men, who can’t handle independent thinking women, congregate to learn ways of controlling their women – sick as.

    I still visit their shops so give money, but not in larger cash donations anymore.

  9. randal 9

    dont forget all the boy racer cars, all the stainless steel imports for fat exhausts, and all the P sold to make everybody’s motor go faster.
    new zealand had an orgy of excess and nobody wants to won up.
    it looks like this is the way we will always conduct ourselves.
    from excess to bashing up the poor with no inbetweens nor any idea of how to moderate the kiwi desire for toys and drugs.

    • Colonial Viper 9.1

      There’s an underlying malaise amongst too many groups of people. The young who are proactive get away from it by leaving the country. Many others sort of stagnate in a kind of stakeless, futureless view of their role in NZ.

      No wonder the use of antidepressants in kids is soaring.

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