Tapu Misa’s latest piece in the Herald is just so right I can’t really add anything to it.
She nicely sums up the Welfare Working Group’s message:
We’re not saying it’s your fault you can’t get a job. We’re just saying you’re a malingering freeloader who’s not trying hard enough.
Everybody would love to see benefit numbers drop, not least the 158,000 unemployed people who are desperately looking for work. And Misa’s happy to acknowledge where the WWG is being sensible:
Its recommendations for huge government investment in early childhood education, after school care, and drug and rehabilitation services (at a cost of up to $285 million a year), as well as help with childcare and other costs for sole parents forced to look for work, are a welcome acknowledgement that there’s no quick or cheap fix to getting people off benefits.
But she’s quick to attack the hypocrisy of looking after the future of children by forcing them deeper into poverty:
Where, for example, is the economic or social benefit in forcing the mother of a 3-year-old, or 14-month-old, to find work?
If the country can afford to pay for the transport and childcare costs for the more than 20 hours it will take a sole parent to fulfil her obligations to the state, why can it not afford to let her stay home with her child if her circumstances and the labour market make that the more sensible and beneficial choice? Should we ignore child development research and our instincts about a child’s best interests to exact our pound of flesh?
The evidence tells us that the children of beneficiaries often live in conditions that set them up for poor health and educational failure, limiting their future potential, and increasing the likelihood that they will end up on the dole, or in prison, or addicted to drugs and alcohol.
We could ensure a better standard of living for them now, as health professionals have urged, and as a more generous Australia does, for example, but we would prefer to make a point, to teach their parents a lesson.
If our education and health systems are then overloaded, why are we surprised when some end up welfare-dependent?
and points out the flaws in the groups starting assumptions:
A tiny minority of beneficiaries cheats the system. The numbers of young girls having babies is trending downwards. The employment rate for the sick and disabled is among the highest in the OECD. Most sole parents and sickness beneficiaries will move off benefits if suitable work is available and they have support.
But I recommend you read it in its entirety.
(Rocky & Sue Bradford’s protest last week get a nice big picture in the print edition too. It’s of the banner that was put on Paula Bennett’s office roof:
To me, the question that needs asking of John Key has to be: And how many starving to death would be too many?)