Remember “the underclass”? They were briefly fashionable in National circles in 2007. John Key expressed his oh so sincere concern at their plight in his state of the nation speech “The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All“. He paraded about the place with the photogenic young girl from McGehan Close. He promised fresh thinking:
Addressing the problems of the growing underclass involves tackling serious and interconnected issues of long-term welfare dependency, crime, illiteracy, poor parenting skills, social exclusion, malnutrition, drugs, and lost hope. In all areas of social policy, I am tasking National’s spokespeople to come up with policies to address the deep-seated problems in some of our families and communities.
It was all very successful political theatre, but the mask is discarded now. The Nats real attitudes to beneficiaries are ugly. Key referred to solo parents “breeding for a business”. Welfare is “a lifestyle choice”. Beneficiaries need “a kick in the pants” because “the dream is over”. Now that they are in government, National’s plans amount to nothing more than good old fashioned beneficiary bashing. They are pursuing this with an urgency that we don’t see in any other policy area…
Winz moves early to bring in tough stance on benefits
Work and Income has quietly started bumping dozens of people off the invalids benefit, months before tough new work tests officially come into force, say beneficiary advocates. They say people with long-term mental illnesses, some of whom have been on the invalids benefit for years, are being bumped down to sickness benefits because they may be capable of part-time work or study within the next two years. …
But advocates say the new hard line is ineffective in pushing people into work at present because of the recession, so the main effect is to cut the beneficiaries’ incomes by $49 a week, from the adult invalids benefit of $243 to the sickness benefit of $194. … “There’s a nationwide campaign to kick them off the invalids benefit already. They are practising the new law even before it has been changed.”
…but with their usual integrity and generosity of spirit:
$20 ‘carrot’ not for all
Unemployment and sickness beneficiaries will miss out on the main “carrot” offered in last month’s package to get people off welfare into work – a higher allowable income before benefits are clawed back.
The increase in allowable income, from $80 to $100 a week, was promised in the National Party’s 2008 election policy for all beneficiaries. But the small print in last month’s package, unnoticed at the time, says the increase will apply only to people on the domestic purposes, widows and invalids benefits and veterans pensions. …
Beneficiary Advocacy Federation spokeswoman Kay Brereton said the decision would mean a “double whammy” for people on the invalids benefit who are being bumped down to the sickness benefit by tighter enforcement of the work capability test.
Yup, that ought to sort out the underclass all right. Way to “tackle serious and interconnected issues” John! Way to “come up with policies to address the deep-seated problems in some of our families and communities”!