Welfare reform 15 point plan

Written By: - Date published: 10:49 am, October 30th, 2017 - 108 comments
Categories: benefits, class war, welfare - Tags: , , ,

With the ongoing revelations, stories and court cases showing the terrible state of welfare services in NZ, Barrister and journalist Catriona MacLennan has written a list of what needs to change. Her previous post Loans to feed kids are income and disqualify benefit, says MSD is essential reading. Cross-posted with permission from Catriona’s blog.
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Congratulations to the new Government on taking office.

Now, it’s time for it to get down to the urgent business of fixing our broken and punitive welfare state.

Both Labour and the Greens campaigned on reforming the benefit system, and an overhaul of welfare is one of the items in the Labour-Greens Confidence & Supply Agreement.

Here are 15 steps that are needed –

1. Set benefits at liveable levels. This is the most urgent and important action required.

2. Begin an immediate review of all Ministry of Social Development cases before the courts and all enforcement by MSD of alleged beneficiary debts and have a moratorium on further enforcement action while the review is completed.

3. Reinstate into law the original purposes of the Social Security Act 1938 so that the object of social security is, once again, to help those in need. The wording could be “The purpose of this act is to ensure all New Zealanders in hardship receive the help they need and it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Development to do this.” Reducing poverty should be the aim of social welfare, not reducing the number of beneficiaries.

4. Write off debts owed by beneficiaries to Work and Income. The total figure is approximately $200 million. Almost no beneficiaries will ever be in a position to repay the money. The debts are a millstone around their necks for life. MSD’s pursuit of beneficiaries who can never realistically repay money is in marked contrast to the lenient approach to other debtors. In the 2015 Budget, the previous Government announced it would write off up to $1.7 billion owing in child support penalties. Between 2008 and 2014, Inland Revenue wrote off $5 billion in tax debt. If debts are to continue to be established against beneficiaries – which seems pointless – there should be a three-year time limit on enforcing them and they should be written off if they have not been paid within that time. This is what is done in our criminal justice system. We do not hound people for their whole lives for repayment in the courts. Other sanctions and penalties against beneficiaries should also be abolished.

5. Close the tip line people can call to dob in beneficiaries. Allegations against beneficiaries are frequently made maliciously by disgruntled ex-partners, but MSD does not appear to consider the motives of those making complaints. Even if they are untrue, an investigation may follow and it can take months or years for beneficiaries to clear their names. It is an absolute denial of natural justice that neither the beneficiary nor their lawyer is allowed to know who has made the allegation, and the person making the complaint is never called to account by being available for cross-examination in court.

6. Abolish Benefits Review Committees and set up an independent body to deal with complaints about decisions by MSD. Benefits Review Committees consist of three people, two of who are MSD employees. They are accordingly not independent. A Social Security Ombudsperson is needed.

7. Delete from the law the current sanctions of between $22 and $28 a week levied against parents who cannot name the other parent in law. Those sanctions apply 97.7 per cent to women and 52.8 per cent to Māori, affecting 13,616 women whose families are already on very low incomes and in desperate financial need. The primary reason for not providing the name of the father is threats and fear of violence.

8. Change utterly the culture of the Ministry of Social Development so that every staff member is required to be certain that all beneficiaries are provided with all of the financial support to which they are legally entitled. Currently, people seeking help face major difficulties in obtaining their legal entitlements. Research demonstrates that those accompanied by an advocate have a better chance of receiving assistance. Hundreds of people have queued in recent years to obtain help from Auckland Action Against Poverty at “Impacts” in Mangere and elsewhere. Voluntary groups should not have to do the job a government agency is funded to carry out.

9. Increase the amount beneficiaries can earn before their benefits are abated. This helps them to bridge from benefit to work without actually ending up worse off financially, and also means they can maintain work skills and experience while in receipt of a benefit. That makes it easier for them to obtain a job when they are in a position to do so.

10. Stop prosecuting mothers for so-called benefit fraud. The legal test applied by MSD is often incorrect and the evidence used is dubious. Do not send any more mothers to jail for benefit fraud. The people this punishes most are their children.

11. Make benefit entitlements individual, rather than basing them on relationship status. This would avoid complex legal tests and misapplication of the law.

12. Set up a consultancy group of beneficiary advocates to meet three times a year with beneficiary advocates to discuss issues on the ground, so MSD and the Government know what is actually happening in beneficiaries’ lives and are not utterly detached from the reality of their existence.

13. Train all MSD staff about their obligations to treat beneficiaries fairly and respectfully and to ensure that beneficiaries receive all the assistance to which they are entitled.

14. Provide proper financial and other support for people who are disabled or ill, so they can live with dignity and participate fully in society.

15. Introduce an exemption for domestic violence victims so they are not required to be seeking work to obtain a benefit.

108 comments on “Welfare reform 15 point plan”

  1. Kay 1

    Unfortunately, we can’t see No.1 happening until the Greens hold much more influence in Government. Labour have never given a damn about benefit rates; they made their position perfectly clear during their last rule.

    The rest is perfectly doable and no reason why all 3 partners can’t agree to it.

    • weka 1.1

      I’m glad Catriona led with No. 1 because I think it points right to where the problem with Labour’s welfare policy and basic position on benefits is. We need public pressure now.

    • Antoine 1.2

      > The rest is perfectly doable and no reason why all 3 partners can’t agree to it.

      Some items could cost quite a bit, which could potentially be a stumbling block.

      A.

      • Molly 1.2.1

        “Some items could cost quite a bit”
        Failure to do so is already costing more than “quite a bit”.

        And there is a collective looking away from that cost which needs to end.

    • Bill 1.3

      I’m among those who are going by past experience, and so expect nothing but the least from NZ Labour when it comes to beneficiaries.

      But against that, I could look to some posts that have gone up here on The Standard that have gone nuts in terms of sharing and penetration into other platforms.

      The two obvious examples are Catriona’s last cross-post and Michelle’s account of being a single parent.

      Those posts don’t exist in isolation. The likes of Dreadwomyn’s “letter to my middle-class, well meaning, professional, liberal friends and family” and Chloe King’s account of a beneficiary’s level of desperation, underscore and reinforce a demand for movement and change.

      In short then, Jacinda Ardern has “done it”, but I think she’d be very ill-advised if she thought that having “done it” she can now turn around an “do us”.

      • Antoine 1.3.1

        > I’m among those who are going by past experience, and so expect nothing but the least from NZ Labour when it comes to beneficiaries.

        I would have thought a bit of disappointment would be in store; the lady has a lot of other spending priorities and a budget to balance…

        A.

        • Bill 1.3.1.1

          Erm, no, this government has chosen to run with an idiotic Liberal ideology that demands balanced budgets. And that’s very different from having to balance a budget.

        • weka 1.3.1.2

          Yes, that’s right, Labour aren’t prioritising beneficiaries. This is not news.

          Not having enough to live on isn’t ‘a bit of disappointment’. It’s the difference between having a life or not, having health or not, having a home or not, and in some case, living or dying.

          • Antoine 1.3.1.2.1

            I don’t mean to trivialize. I thought it would be “only a bit of disappointment” for Bill because he already “expects nothing but the least”. Is all.

            A.

            • weka 1.3.1.2.1.1

              I can’t speak for Bill, but I’m fully aware of what the potential and reality of Labour is, and it’s still not a little bit disappointing, it’s massively disappointing.

            • weka 1.3.1.2.1.2

              And here’s the thing. If you think that Labour shouldn’t prioritise raising all people out of poverty, I’d like to hear why. If you think they can’t, I’d like to hear why. Putting up comments along the lines of ‘we don’t have enough money’ IS trivialising the debate.

              • McFlock

                Because a rapid culture change in government requires a preceding culture change in the country, or a massive crisis perceived by voters.

                Otherwise it’s a 3year government with a massive reset by the following tory regime.

                I think we’re close to making elimination of all poverty an electorally palatable objective. But 44% of the country supported National, and whatever% to NZ1. That is not a country that will be singing the internationale anytime soon. It needs to be led from “but what about teh kiddieeezz” into “but what about everyone else”.

                Frankly, I’m surprised we’ve made it this far. Things seem to be speeding up since more emphasis was placed on child poverty as a systemic problem 10-15 years ago, and I think starting with the low hanging fruit has a lot to do with it.

                I reckon that if the effort put into child poverty had been put into all poverty, we would have made traction on neither – and advances on the CP focus lays the groundwork for traction on all poverty.

                • weka

                  Sure, that might be true. It might also be true that Labour don’t want to raise benefits for other reasons.

                  I’m not actually asking for rapid change here. I’d settle for Labour taking baby steps like “we recognise the need to increase benefits for people who will never be able to work due to disability, and we’d like to assign the Greens to look at that next year” (and I pick that example because I’m pretty sure there will be increasing support in NZ now for helping people with disabilities).

                  Or whatever. Anything that signals they’re going to stop with the enforcement of poverty on people without jobs.

                  I’m just pointing to the fact that Labour appear to think they will solve poverty by addressing non-benefit issues (e.g. housing, wage rates) and focussing on WFF. There are massive holes in that and until I see evidence otherwise I’m going to continue to assume that it’s ideologically driven not pragmatics. Am really happy for Labour to prove me wrong.

                  • McFlock

                    So where their policy said:

                    Labour believes that there needs to be adequate supports in place for those who are unable to work, temporarily or permanently. Many people may not be able to participate in paid employment due to physical or mental restrictions, or because of caring commitments for children or other family members. These people need to feel supported and be a part of our society. It is also vital that they are able to access all assistance they are entitled to, whether they are sole parents, single people out of work, disabled people, New Zealanders with mental illness or Senior Citizens.

                    that was insufficient?

                    • weka

                      What in there makes you think Labour intend lift benefits for people with disabilities? I’m seeing the opposite.

                    • McFlock

                      I’m seeing the word “adequate”. I’m seeing the explicit intention to raise the real amount people receive by telling them what they are already eligible for. I’m seeing an acknowledgement that beneficiaries have a diversity of needs and abilities, rather than merely being a featureless pool of “job seekers”. Elsewhere in the policy I see the winter supplementary payment, and an explict intention to change and improve the cultre of MSD into actually seeing itself as an organisation that helps people.

                      I’m certainly not seeing an assumption that everything is fine in the MSD and current benefit regime.

                    • weka

                      Adequate supports not adequate income.

                      Do you believe that SLP is enough to live on permanently if one can access all current entitlements?

                    • Chris

                      There’s nothing there we haven’t heard from the likes of Bennett or Tolley ranting away about how fanstastic our benefit system is under National. It’s the detail that’s important – the stuff that Catriona MacLennan’s saying, for example.

                    • McFlock

                      I have no freaking idea. I doubt it. Maybe the kicker is winter power prices, so the winter benefit increase would sort out a lot of the immediate pain.

                      Assuming it is inadequate, how inadequate is it if all theoretical entitlements were paid without argument from winz, as opposed to how much people are actually paid today?

                      MSD actually speaking to people will give sight to an intentionally blind system. And then we’ll know exactly how much benefits need to increase by, as well as if there are better ways of doing things.

                      I have no idea why you think Labour would foreshadow benefit increases right now, because it would cause more political difficulty than it’s worth. We know what the outcome would be: the tories will proclaim NZ will be driven to bankruptcy, then complain that there are too many holes so the policy is poorly thought out (dutifully repeated by the media). On the left side, people will announce it’s a sign of Labour’s neoliberal ideals, and/or complain that there are too many holes and they can’t be trusted.

                      Why bother.

                    • weka

                      “I have no freaking idea.”

                      My suggestion is that you start listening to people who know. In this conversation I can count at least 4 people who do.

                      So yes, MSD talking to people would yield good information, research would be important too. But MSD aren’t going to talk to people if the government isn’t telling them that the shortfall in benefit rates is a problem. If instead the directions are the other things listed in your cut and paste, then that is what they will focus on instead.

                      “I have no idea why you think Labour would foreshadow benefit increases right now,”

                      I don’t, I think Labour have no intention of raising benefits this term. But as I said, if they did intend to raise all people out of poverty, there are ways they could start dropping hints about this now. You probably don’t see it, but there is a big hole in their policy and that hole is being hidden. I can see, others can see it, I’m suggesting that left wing people start paying attention to what we are saying about it, because it’s important.

                      The alternative is that we go along the deserving poor track and hope that Labour attends to the other peopler later on, at some vague point in the future.

                    • McFlock

                      I don’t decide I know something because 4 people on the interwebz says it.

                      And you have the MSD talking to people the wrong way around: case managers will have to reorient themselves to providing “real support”. So if there is needed support that they’re not able to provide because entitlements, this gets kicked upstairs until it reaches the decision makers. The government should not instruct the ministry about the advice it expects to receive. That’s the way the former lot did it.

                    • weka

                      “I don’t decide I know something because 4 people on the interwebz says it.”

                      Me neither. Which is why I wasn’t suggesting that. I was letting you know that there are experts here right in front of you that can fill in the gaps in your knowledge.

                      And you have the MSD talking to people the wrong way around: case managers will have to reorient themselves to providing “real support”. So if there is needed support that they’re not able to provide because entitlements, this gets kicked upstairs until it reaches the decision makers. The government should not instruct the ministry about the advice it expects to receive. That’s the way the former lot did it.

                      Sure, makes sense, except for the past 25 years of exactly that happening and National and Labour taking no notice. It’s not a secret that benefits are set below liveable, it was intentional and it’s widely accepted. The problem here isn’t lack of knowledge about the situation.

                      And of course the government is about to start giving direction to the Ministry that it has to change in other areas. Again, there is plenty of knowledge and evidence of the issues, although I expect the government to fix the communication channels too.

                    • McFlock

                      Yeah, I don’t know who if anyone here is an “expert”, as such. I know a lot of people have extensive personal experiences and seem to have well-informed opinions, but I’ll take none of it as expert testimony.

                      Besides, from my perspective it’s a redundant argument. If benefit level is a major factor in poverty (which it probably is) then ameliorating other factors will still help reduce poverty while removing obstacles to admitting that people just plain need more money. By tying themselves to eliminating child poverty, Labour have tied themselves to eliminating general poverty, because children are dependent on adults.

                      Either way, there’s no political advantage to get from foreshadowing a benefit increase now – joyce is still bleating about 11 billion, and even if Labour promised benefits at the level of a living wage people would be bitching that it’s not soon enough, or some grammatical nuance that suggests Labour have neoliberal intentions.

                    • weka

                      “Yeah, I don’t know who if anyone here is an “expert”, as such. I know a lot of people have extensive personal experiences and seem to have well-informed opinions, but I’ll take none of it as expert testimony.”

                      We’re not in a courtroom McFlock. Some of us have spent years pointing out on TS these issues and not being believed. You could do a lot worse than to read pretty much every comment Chris makes on TS. Yes you’ll have to work through some opinion based stuff, but he’s often generally pointing to things that are on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard. Those are things worth knowing, so I’m saying pay attention to the people who are telling of the existence of the locked filing cabinet. You can still make up your own mind about the value of what you hear.

                      “Besides, from my perspective it’s a redundant argument. If benefit level is a major factor in poverty (which it probably is) then ameliorating other factors will still help reduce poverty while removing obstacles to admitting that people just plain need more money. By tying themselves to eliminating child poverty, Labour have tied themselves to eliminating general poverty, because children are dependent on adults.”

                      No, that’s the deserving poor position. Welfare is evil, but we should’t take that out on kids. So we won’t help their parents as such, but we will help the family so the kids are ok. And no we’re not going to help people without kids even the ones that are in really dire fucking straights like people with serious mental heath crises or people with permanent disability. And of course we’ll put better services in place, because we can control those, but fucked if we’re going to give the undeserving poor actual income. In other words, no, we don’t think beneficiaries are entitled to a decent income unless they can work.

                      I don’t think it’s actually that evil, but it’s a dilemma for Labour because even by mainstream NZ standards someone who is obviously physically incapable of working is still considered deserving. But if you start raising benefits where will it end?

                      “Either way, there’s no political advantage to get from foreshadowing a benefit increase now – joyce is still bleating about 11 billion, and even if Labour promised benefits at the level of a living wage people would be bitching that it’s not soon enough, or some grammatical nuance that suggests Labour have neoliberal intentions.”

                      Of course, but we’re not talking about Labour getting the details wrong, we’re talking about them maintaining a position that is actively damaging. If Labour said they’re going to look at raising benefits in term 2, I’d still write posts about the problems with that, but I would no longer have legitimacy in querying Labour’s basic positioning that being on a benefit is bad/work is good.

                    • McFlock

                      Thanks. In my opinion, the value of what I hear here is that it is of interest and frequently useful, but not an nth as useful as official government information or a peer-reviewed article.

                      My point about Labour tying themselves to child poverty at the highest level is that yes, it’s nominally the deserving poor (see “44% of votes went to national”), but just as the “Ministry for vulnerable Children” lost the “Vulnerable” bit, “child poverty” is highly likely to lose “child”. Now, this might just be an incredible political gaff by our new PM, but I doubt it.

                      As for your last paragraph, I disagree with you as to what Labour’s “basic positioning” is and whether it’s “actively damaging”, so… yeah.

                    • weka

                      One of the more hopeful things for me this year is the shift from needing to talk about child poverty because it’s not politically safe to talk about poverty in general when looking at solutions, to being able to talk about both. Obviously child poverty is a huge issue, and I don’t have a problem of it being given priority so long as we can also talk about poverty and the wellbeing of all NZers.

                      Turei really influenced that hugely, and that the Green caucus supported that and still does despite the cost is one of the most heartening things I’ve seen on welfare in my lifetime. I think Labour also started to shift on this, so again, more hope. I’m looking forward to seeing what Sepuloni does and how far the Greens can go with their remit and I expect there to be more talk about poverty in general as well as an opening up around some of the gnarlier issues e.g. the disability and mental health stuff.

                      But, there is still this elephant in the living room. And re Labour’s position, you can take out my rhetoric and anger, and solely look at the legislation of the past 25 years and it’s not a good look for Labou (which is why I’m suggesting following Chris whenever he pops up).

                      Good to hash this out though, because I’m freer here to be more cavalier with my language, but when I go to write a post about it, I’d like to be tighter and clearer so it’s helpful to see what people are going to argue against.

                    • McFlock

                      I am a total fan of Turei, and I reckon she’s done a huge amount to shift the conversation. I really hope she tries for parliament again.

                      But my recollection of the general media / popular perception ten or fifteen years ago was that even child poverty was just “bad parents”. Not amongst many people who worked either at the coalface or in the backrooms doing analysis, but whenever a particularly mournful story came up it wasn’t just the tory trolls who blamed the parents without looking at systemic issues.

                      So I look at where we are compared to where we were, and commit the cardinal sin of “if these trends continue”. Although I try to help these trends continue, rather than just hoping.

                    • weka

                      I can see that, and I also think it’s because you trust Labour more than I do 😉

                      So I look at the Clark years and I see some good things, and I also see things that allowed the bigotry to keep rising and get entrenched. e.g. they had this policy supporting Māori to access funds and control local services of their people. Under pressure they cancelled that (race based funding!). I get the pragmatics in that, but I also know that it cost Māori in their communities.

                      If we look at welfare, I understand the pragmatics that Clark’s Labour took, but my expectation is that LW spaces would acknowledge the problems that created instead of trying to erase what happened. I’m not joking when I say we’ve spent years on TS trying to talk about this stuff.

                      On the other hand, I’ve done lots of Labour apology too, on other topics, so I’m not averse to people wanting to keep some kind of balance in the debates.

                    • McFlock

                      I’ve had a think, and I’m not sure “trust” is the right word. there’s a certain amount, yes, that Labour are pretty much what they say on the packet (they’ve been pretty open about their opinions on TPP, for example).

                      But my opinion is also based on too many episodes of Yes Minister and associated cynicism:
                      1 The PM has made herself minister of child poverty reduction, so her future electability is now tied in part to success in that area.
                      2 Is it possible to halve child poverty in three years without significantly improving adult poverty? I don’t think so.
                      3 Other policies, like regional development, will also necessitate addressing wider poverty – and the Greens and NZ1 will be forcing Labour’s hand there as much as possible
                      4 Even if 2 and 3 fall down, solving child poverty makes adult poverty more stark, and shows poverty for families can be addressed. So they have painted themselves into a corner where they will have to eventually address poverty in general
                      5 as low hanging fruit poverty (p50AHC-p60AHC) gets addressed, the more severe poverty will become the greater proportion of poverty. P30AHC-p40AHC will be a bigger part of the problem, so will have to be acknowledged and addressed outright.

                      None of this is ideal, but I figure it’s how it will play out. And it does see a resolution to the problem.

                • Chris

                  “Because a rapid culture change in government requires a preceding culture change in the country, or a massive crisis perceived by voters.”

                  Not true. National managed massive cultural change in less than ten years following the mother of all budgets in 1990. Sure, it was handed the baton by the previous Labour government but an attitude of self-interest was bedded in by that nat government, and no attempt has ever been made to reverse that damage. Part of the neo-liberal agenda is to lead cultural change. Straight out of the Crosby-Textor manifesto. Get the poor believing that greed and selfishness is good. To say that a government must wait for the country to tell it that it wants a compassionate and caring society before it tries to create one is a cop out.

                  • McFlock

                    The nats did not achieve a culture change in the 1990s. They bedded in the attitudes created by lab4, and if NZ1 had gone the way many of its voters expected, the nats would have been out in the first MMP election. Which is the environment we are operating in now.

                    Even under FPP, the neolibs needed and constructed a fiscal crises and then removed any hope of an alternative governmental approach because they had control of both major parties. The nats promised to reverse the Lab4 neolib plan (e.g. student fees and loans) and instead doubled down on them. And for that the nats lost a chunk of their vote in 1993, but who were people going to vote for: Labour again? 18% went to Alliance, but yeah… FPP.

        • Delia 1.3.1.3

          We were told this govt was working for all New Zealanders and that includes those on benefits. A recently example of the bad habits encouraged under National, an intellectually disabled person had his benefit cut off because the MSD did not send his review form to the person who signs on his behalf. We used to have a months grace to fill those benefits and they would have in the past been sent a reminder. All this has to change. It is not low priority stuff, do you consider your own income low priority?

          • weka 1.3.1.3.1

            I think the Greens will be able to sort out those issues. It’s a big job, because those internal processes at WINZ are in a real mess, but I think the Greens have been given the go ahead to make probably quite significant changes within WINZ.

            I don’t think they’ve been given permission to look at increasing benefits though.

            • jcuknz 1.3.1.3.1.1

              Frankly I think you are reaching for the moon with talk of increased benefits.
              What would cost nothing and would save a lot of effort by WINZ would be to remove or set at sensible levels the clawback due to folk making an effort to get back into the workplace.
              The costs for travel, clothing and so forth are a serious problem for somebody starting work so what they get in wages is not all ‘profit’ to be clawed back.
              Rejoining the workforce is not just getting a job but can be like MeTu did share costs of housing when the cost of that is so high these days .
              For years now, decades really, I have been extremely angry and saddened by folk complaining that ‘some folk’ might be getting something for nothing. In my book it is better that a hundred do rather than one misses out. The foolishness of systems checking nobody wastes a cent when the cost of that is dollars.

              • weka

                That helps working people. What about those that can’t work? Why is it so hard to value all people?

                • jcuknz

                  I think it helps those without a job get into work and leaves more for those who cannot work but need help to survive and preferably enjoy their life as far as their problems permit. Much better than just throwing money, taxpayers money, at everybody. It is a huge problem and way beyond just government help which Weka seem suspicious as to if it will happen.
                  Targeted help is the answer to what the country can afford.
                  Winston said what I have written several times that the last government would have been acceptable if it had show more humanity in its actions.

                  • weka

                    “and leaves more for those who cannot work but need help to survive and preferably enjoy their life as far as their problems permit.”

                    It doesn’t work like that though. If one beneficiary doesn’t need money they don’t give it to another one.

                    “Targeted help is the answer to what the country can afford.”

                    Targeted help is the system we have now, and it’s intentionally set below what people can live including those who cannot work or earn income in other ways.

                    • jcuknz

                      What happens now is not the point … my comments are suggestions for change but it is obvious that cannot be appreciated by Weka .. never mind I am trying and hopefully others less mired by dogma will take them into consideration.

          • Michael 1.3.1.3.2

            Yo do realise, don’t you that “this government” only took office last Thursday? While I am skeptical that it will “overhaul” our welfare system, as it promised in its deal with the Greens, I think we should give it longer than a few days before writing it off.

    • patricia bremner 1.4

      National have made us a low wage economy and all benefits are a % of that.

      Please read the agreements reached so far, plus the scene setting of kindness and making people’s lives better by Jacinda.

      It is hard to wait when you have been trodden down and are desperate.

      Believe that we are all sending cases to ministers and leaders, keeping the pain in view.

      The Government has been operating for 3 days, yet many things are beginning to change for the better.

      Stay hopeful Kay. We know it is hard to dredge up hope over and over. This time will be different for you and yours. These people feel your pain.

      • weka 1.4.1

        I’ve seen nothing to suggest that Labour will move on increasing benefits, nor that they will shift from their fundamental position that people should be in work and thus being on a benefit is bad and thus benefit rates have to be kept low. Their welfare policy this year reinforced that.

        Yes, they will be much kinder than Nationa, and I expect them to do a range of good things. But that doesn’t preclude them from doing fucked up things as well. We know this from history.

        Honest to god, beneficiaries and their allies have been talking about this for decades, it would be good if left wing people started listening to what is being said about Labour and not asking us to give them the benefit of the doubt. Because of their history and the position they are in and their current actual policies, they need to earn our trust not be given it just because they’re now in government.

        What I’d like to see is left wing people getting behind or alongside the nascent welfare movement and putting pressure on the government. We need momentum and activism as much as ever.

        • Antoine 1.4.1.1

          Surely there is a role for the Green caucus here?

          A.

          • weka 1.4.1.1.1

            A role whereby they manage to get Labour to fundamentally change? What did you have in mind?

            I would guess that the Greens will have influence over time. And if they get more MPs next election they will have more influence in what they can negotiate. I suggest going and reading their agreement this time, because it doesn’t include raising benefit rates.

            • Antoine 1.4.1.1.1.1

              > I suggest going and reading their agreement this time, because it doesn’t include raising benefit rates.

              I was aware.

              I’d like to think that Labour could be persuaded to go beyond what is in the agreement (where merited), and it seems that the Greens could assist in this persuasion.

              A.

              • weka

                I suggest you pick a side then Antoine and start speaking up for beneficiaries rather than making apologies for Labour.

        • Delia 1.4.1.2

          …exactly right Weka.

      • jcuknz 1.4.2

        The country is suffering from the result of successful unions raising wages and ignoring the resultant increases in prices which means workers see more notes but their spending power is no more and often less.

  2. Antoine 2

    Well thought through. Let’s watch this space.

    A.

  3. Sabine 3

    Point 11. so important. We can not be ok with people having to live of the grace and generosity of their partners. IF something goes wrong in that relation ship there is usually always one person who will not be able to leave simply for lack of resources.

  4. Kevin 4

    And at a more micro level, Child Support payments from liable parents must be paid by 20th of the month. This was fine when everyone was paid by the 20th of the month but with todays fractured jobs , is now archaic and costly for those involved and involves a penalty payment every month.

    I cannot see any reason why this cannot be made the 30th of the month.

  5. slumbergod 5

    16. Vet ALL WINZ staff to weed out the undesirable sociopaths that have infiltrated the department.

    • Antoine 5.1

      I’m not sure you can do that. Hmm, maybe by making everyone reapply for their jobs? But then you tend to lose a lot of good people…

      A.

      • weka 5.1.1

        Set new guidelines, those that don’t follow them face the usual employment disciplinary processes that end up in them being fired if they can’t do their job properly.

        • Antoine 5.1.1.1

          Sounds more the go

          • Chris 5.1.1.1.1

            If IRD can fix its culture then MSD can. The difference is that no government has ever had the will to fix MSD.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1.1.2

          Or, a team of forensic investigators could gather evidence of human rights violations by examining the case files of all beneficiaries who have been subject to sanctions, calling for witnesses to come forward and so-on.

          Ideologues can be re-hired as soon as the electorate forgets what the National Party is. If there’s genuine evidence against them court proceedings should follow.

          That way, they receive the legal protections they denied their victims, rather than internal quasi-legal witch-hunts, and if convicted, can be prevented from entering public service ever again.

          Edit: also, the victims can be compensated for the crimes committed against them.

          • weka 5.1.1.2.1

            I’d prefer a truth and reconciliation process.

            • Siobhan 5.1.1.2.1.1

              … what we need is a Truth and Reconciliation process around the Labour Party to convince those of us Lefties who are not convinced that Labour have really moved on, let alone understood the damage done, from and by the 4th and 5th Labour Governments

              • Chris

                Yes! While obviously quite a few have acknowledged that what the 4th Labour government did was wrong, not one Labour MP has ever publicly accepted that what Labour did between 1999 to 2008 to benefits should not have happened. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s many who even know what happened to benefits over those nine years.

            • Chris 5.1.1.2.1.2

              17. Every person who has either been imprisoned or penalised or had debt established against them for living in a relationship in the nature of marriage, whether having admitted to it or not, can ask for their case to be fully reviewed in light of the correct legal test, and if decisions are found to have been made incorrectly compensation is payable on top of any benefit arrears due or return of repayments already made.

  6. Stuart Munro 6

    It’s a good list of points – I like #6 – I’d like to see a benefit review or appeal authority along the lines of an ombudsman. Nonsense like Winz pursuing someone for borrowing money would be stopped expeditiously by such an authority – and Winz will have spent more than that debt on lawyers chasing it.

    • Chris 6.1

      Wouldn’t it be better to replace the current two MSD staff and community representative with a truly independent panel that can make binding decisions? That was the original intention of the old district review committees. Now MSD has become so arrogant it tells the benefits review committees what to do, or simply changes the decisions a committee makes that it doesn’t like. It’s the make up of the committees that has created this. An Ombudsman simply recommends, and mightn’t be too different to what happens now. MSD would just continue to give the finger.

  7. Richard Christie 7

    16. Issue medals to all unemployment beneficiaries for services to the temple of neoliberalism.

    Medals to be inscribed “In recognition of sacrifices made to maintain constant pool of unemployed and ensure a low wage economy.”

  8. tracey 8

    James, Catriona answers your question.

    ” “The primary reason for not providing the name of the father is threats and fear of violence.”

    • Zorb6 8.1

      Doubt that very much.More like -I don’t want my boyfriend to have to pay maintenance,and as he is both the father of the child and I still see him,this is the best strategy.

      • McFlock 8.1.1

        yeah, don’t let the door hit your blinkers on the way out

        • Zorb6 8.1.1.1

          No blinkers here.Seen with my own eyes,growing up in an area full of solo mums.

          • greywarshark 8.1.1.1.1

            But seeing isn’t understanding Zorb6. You suggest a reason for them not naming fathers. And describe it critically. But they might be doing what they need to to survive. And they haven’t thought of anything better. So stick to what you know. You sound like a bloke, and therefore don’t have the problem of the end result of fertility. It is a different viewpoint.

            • Zorb6 8.1.1.1.1.1

              I do know.There is a difference between what you think and reality.Sure possible violence is a big factor in gang related circumstances,but not naming the father is a given with alot of solo mums.Most are unsophisticated in their understanding or appreciation of financial matters.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                🙄

              • greywarshark

                Zorb6
                Most are unsophisticated…too true. So doing from moment to moment what seems the best thing now. Usually with no bigger picture or awareness of their own talents and strengths and goals using them for a future they can respect. They may never get a real life, or they might have to go through severe learning curves to find their strengths. They are more pathetic than bad so don’t be too hard and judgmental.

                When you think that nearly half the people voting in NZ couldn’t see clearly where the country had gone astray and was going down under
                the weight of stupidity, then it puts the individual mistakes of uneducated and foolish women into some context. Even when people have got everything sussed seemingly, they can still make stupid decisions and ones lacking in responsibility to themselves and others citizens who deserve fair treatment.

                • tracey

                  I know some very sophisticated solo mothers. Some have named the father and the state has done nothing to garner a contribution from them.

                  I know several who have protection orders and are scared to have any pushing of already borderline men.

                  And by know I mean socialise, help or work with.

                • My mother was a solo mother. Only thick stupid pricks judge solo mother’s and their lives.

                  • greywarshark

                    It is a pity that some of you can’t discuss anybody or situation objectively. Everything has to be channelled through your own experience and be a personal comment applied to you. Can you try and understand a situation that is common, and not particularise what is generalised. Can you please.

                    • Sure, the last thing I want is a fight with you. I wish you didn’t write mean generalizations about groups I care about.

                    • McFlock

                      It was a pretty patronising comment you made.

                      I’ve got to say, most of the solo mums I’ve met have been fucking guns on personal finances and general nous – they had to be. It’s just that shit happened in their lives that threw the big plans astray.

                      In case people were thinking of the stereotype of the teenage mother with no support, it’s bullshit. Life happens.

          • McFlock 8.1.1.1.2

            you grew up knowing the financial and personal circumstances of every single mother in your area?

            Panty-drawer sniffer from an early age, then.

            • Zorb6 8.1.1.1.2.1

              No not every single,but certainly most.Two parallel streets in the Eastern Suburbs .This does you no credit-‘Panty-drawer sniffer from an early age, then.’.

              • McFlock

                It adequately describes someone who thinks they know their neighbours intimate business and finances. What did you do – compare birth certificates with your mates? Then ask who had a protection order out?

                The only way you could know that most single mothers in your neighbourhood hadn’t declared the fathers for the pretty stupid reason you describe is if you were the father in each case. And to be fair, if I were one of those single mothers, I wouldn’t want people to know my standards had slipped so low.

            • greywarshark 8.1.1.1.2.2

              Bit sniffy McFlock?

          • tracey 8.1.1.1.3

            Given many of your attitudes I would be very surprised if all these solo mums chatted with you and told you their circumstances. Still what you reckon is prolly best evidence rather than a lawyer working in the area.

            I said good day!

      • Chris 8.1.2

        Just look at the exemptions to the reduction in s 70A(3). These pretty much tell you why women don’t or can’t name the father:

        http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1964/0136/332.0/DLM363583.html

        When one of these scenarios is present the other parent does not have to be named for the full rate of benefit to be received. If a situation doesn’t fall within one of the exemptions and the other parent isn’t named then the benefit is paid at the reduced rate – simple. So in your example the woman has no choice but to wear the reduced benefit, and the objective of the reduction is met, which is to pay a reduced benefit when there’s no good reason for people to refuse or fail to name the other parent.

        That said, this doesn’t mean that the reduction regime isn’t shitty law. The Auckland Action Against Poverty has a campaign to get rid of it:

        http://www.aaap.org.nz/stopthesanctions

  9. cleangreen 9

    And the labour coalition should now make solid checking of the corrupt National admistration that also leaves us all with this “$200 Million Dollar hole” on top of many other deficit “holes” we believe will show up when close scrutiny is made of a assessment of the “books” that National had not released or redacted parts of it will make startling news I believe.

    Steven Joyce was claiming Labour had a “$11.7 Deficit hole” that was found false but we think Joyce was actually confused and it was his “books” that will be shown to be in grave error.

    Now today the cheeky sods are requesting jacinda release her costs of making a deal with NZF!!!!!!!!!!!#$%^&**()

    Jacinda’s team should now go item by item through national’s whole books nine years of terror and the complete costing of their accounts to see how much they flitered away on things like a flag referendum, and warner bros, comalco aluminum smelter subidies, and lots of other ‘pork belly’ favours using taxpayers money for their political gain.

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 9.1

      “Now today the cheeky sods are requesting jacinda release her costs of making a deal with NZF!!!!!!!!!!!#$%^&**()”

      Everytime the coalition is asked about costs by National (be it on education costs or the cost of Jacinda’s morning coffee) the answer should be, every time,

      “it cost 11.7 billion dollars

      Maybe with maniacal Dr Evil laugh

    • Descendant Of Sssmith 9.2

      And total up how many assets they sold and for how much – including farmland onsold for a fortune in the SI, making SOE’s sell each other stuff to incur debt and pay special dividends, taking poor peoples rent and making HNZ pay special dividends, stealing money out of both ACC and NZS fund to “invest” in Kiwibank to pay special dividends and so on.

      And a Royal Commission to investigate who invested SCF from when the guarantee was renewed, and especially in the last few weeks leading up to the final collapse, and why interest was paid out when that wasn’t part of the original guarantee.

      There’s quite a few stories around of people in the know about the interest payout tossing in some money at the last minute.

  10. UncookedSelachimorpha 10

    The hope is that Labour’s commitment to fix Child Poverty will ‘spill over’ into fixing other poverty – which in reality is exactly what needs to happen – you can’t fix child poverty in isolation. And fixing poverty will inevitably require beneficiaries are treated much better.

    Have they thought it through, or are they just spouting nice words with no intention of addressing the structural problems or hard issues?

    • weka 10.1

      If you focus on child poverty, by definition you exclude those without children.

      I think both Labour and the Greens have good intentions that they will act on. But Labour have some problems in their central position and IMO they will need encouraging to shift on that as well as go far enough on the things they’re already on board with.

      • greywarshark 10.1.1

        Good point weka
        I read the statement years ago that single older women are the poorest in the community. I don’t think that has changed. A signpost as to why is the gefuffle over paying carers of the elderly etc. It’s busy and possibly heavy work, but in these days making up media fantasies and planning new rules and regulations to shove up the peeps is respected, and physical work isn’t. Not women’s anyway and possibly not men’s either.

  11. Michael 11

    I fully agree with Catriona McLennan’s recommendations. Anything less will be a breach of Labour’s promise (to the Greens, expressly, but to the people, implicitly) to “overhaul” the welfare system, as opposed to merely tinkering with it. As other posters to this thread observe, the government cannot “overhaul” the welfare system without getting rid of the worst offenders among the bureaucrats who have, so cheerfully, inflicted pain and suffering on our most vulnerable people. Will the PSA let the Government make these changes?

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 11.1

      “As other posters to this thread observe, the government cannot “overhaul” the welfare system without getting rid of the worst offenders among the bureaucrats who have, so cheerfully, inflicted pain and suffering on our most vulnerable people. ”

      I agree, but I have seen a number of times in private business, what a profound and rapid effect a change in the executive can have (both for good, or for bad). There will be some recalcitrant sociopaths who have been attracted into the bureaucracy by the previous nastiness, but I think that many incumbents will change rapidly for the better if the messages from above improve.

      • Michael 11.1.1

        A good test of the new government’s bona fides in the welfare portfolio will be the fate of MSD’s chief executive – the one who disclosed Winston’s personal details to National Party politicians and officials. He’s also the guy responsible for MSD’s conduct, as reported in new media, ad nauseam. Mr Boyle needs to go. Now.

      • tracey 11.1.2

        I agree. Sometimes the kpi’s of an employee stay their compassion. And they too need a job to survive. Change those kpi’s alone and there will be a major shift

  12. Incognito 12

    #8!

    I suggest an internal reorganisation of MSD is warranted in which staff will be invited to reapply for ‘new’ positions and have to undergo a mandatory psychometric evaluation to make sure they meet a minimal threshold for customer service and stakeholder satisfaction.

  13. Descendant Of Sssmith 13

    I voted Green precisely because they had a policy to increase benefit rates. Labour did not.

    Helen Clarks Labour government, as I have oft pointed out, made a political decision to put the $20.00 per week back on NZS and never, ever put it back on benefits.

    It was political, not financial, because there are less beneficiaries than those on super. It was cheaper to do it on benefits and those on super were already getting a higher rate.

    Once upon a time single rate of super and single rate of unemployment was the same.

    Reminder too that the youth rate for 16-17 year olds was extended to 24. This too has never been corrected. Young single people have been doubly disadvantaged all these years.

    Reminder too that those benefits that you paid for when you were in work, or your parents paid for if you were a school leaver used to be non-taxable. They were made taxable so some of the cost could be clawed back through the tax system when you were working by putting you into a higher tax bracket. You simply paid more tax because your benefit was now added to your other income.

    Reminder too that those on benefit did not gain anything from tax cuts as benefits are paid at net rates while NZS is paid at gross. Those on NZS have had both average wage rate gains and the increases due to tax cuts.

    We have age discrimination laws. Rates for all benefits should be set for all at the net NZS rates and then we would simply stop discriminating on the basis of age.

    NZS should remain gross as if you do work and get NZS then it is valid you should pay more tax. That’s what a progressive tax system should do. The difference with a benefit is that it is income tested and you can’t (at this point anyway) work fully and get a benefit.

    Given the shortfall in benefit rates over successive years everyone who has been on benefit since Ruth’s cuts should get their $20-00 per week back in order to clear any debt and then, if any balance left, paid to them.

    For someone who may have been on benefit all that time (say someone with a significant disability) $20-00 per week would come to about $27,000.

    Lastly they should all get an apology for the cuts in the first place and the lack of fixing of it since. Every single person who has ever been on benefit since 1991.

    Labour sadly still sucks.

  14. patricia bremner 14

    The reforms in welfare will be mirrored in reforms to apprenticeships paid tertiary training and up-skilling and night classes.

    Also work will be created in the regions, and social housing will be provided again.

    Costs for medicals and winter fuel will be provided or subsidised. Gold card will be enhanced.

    This their 4th day.

    I find the bitterness here a bit bloody sad. Instead of trumpeting the failures by National people are already deciding this Labour Government will be mean and timid.

    One comment was ” didn’t like seeing input by Michael Cullen and Annette king.!!”

    Well why ever not?? Cullen gave us 8 surpluses and Kiwisaver. Annette King was an excellent Minister of Health.

    Big business needs to provide a social dividend to repay some of the subsidies they have had from the public purse.

    Multi-nationals will be made to pay tax at a fair rate. Loop holes will be closed.

    We have to relearn co-operative and collaborative skills and team work to replace neo-lib individualism and competition (winners and losers).

    We need to climb the international measures for health child safety and educational standards.

    We have to learn to say “What can we do?” not “You made your choices.

    Jacinda Winston James and teams need us to encourage any progressive moves.

    They have said they want change. I await Jacinda’s speech read by the Governor General at Parliaments opening, showing the planned programme.

    Key went into Lock down for days and came out with the cycle trail.

    I think this combination will better that.

  15. Descendant Of Sssmith 15

    “I find the bitterness here a bit bloody sad. Instead of trumpeting the failures by National people are already deciding this Labour Government will be mean and timid.”

    If you’ve been here a while you’ll know that I’ve taken a consistent stance on increasing the benefit rates since forever.

    It’s not bitterness to point out that Labour have consistently failed to increase benefit rates. In fact the only government who has increased some benefit rates beyond the annual increase has in fact been National who increased the rates for sole parents.

    Many of us pointed out that irony at the time. I hope you don’t mind the trumpeting of National’s (partial) success in that regard.

    That they can increase rates was evidenced by Clark’s decision to put the $20.00 per week back on super.

    You can’t improve poverty by leaving people in poverty.

    There is not one skerrick of intent anywhere by Labour to increase the benefit yet they are quite happy to go out and publicly say we’re going to lift the minimum wage.

    If they see low paid workers as vulnerable and in need of an income boost then clearly beneficiaries must be completely and totally invisible in that regard.

    Besides if they are confident in their policies increases in benefit rates will be paid for in part by the declining benefit numbers.

    If I think Labour are being mean in this regard it’s because they have been and are.

    • patricia bremner 15.1

      But, and a bloody big but, that was then this is now. We see a government ready to govern, not let things slide. Jacinda is not Helen. She has emotional intelligence.

      The only reason National raised the benefits $20.00 was because their other policies were increasing poverty at a clip, and even their friends were critical.

      Further, National under Bennett, CUT benefits to the bone, bringing them down to Jobseeker with addons (often denied.) So much for the bloody $20.00!!

      We now know they with held $200 million of deserved support, probably to help Billshit’s mythical bloody surplus.

      I repeat, this is a broad based set of reforms with ministries carefully grouped and personal cleverly chosen.

      Raising benefits will come, but to avoid the business back lash Helen Clarke’s Closing the Gaps programme suffered, the climate of “kindness/empathy” has to replace “You made poor choices”.

      This does need time, and the degree of bitterness here is unwarranted as yet, imo

      • weka 15.1.1

        Writing off critique of Labour’s position on welfare as bitterness with no foundation is hugely problematic.

        If the Greens sorted out all the problems with WINZ today and every beneficiary was able to access their entitlements, there would still be a group of people living in poverty that Labour has no plan for. Worse, there has been virtually no signal from Labour that that group of people will be attended to any time soon. The policy that McFlock quoted above makes it really clear the plan is to rely on the existing system.

        I think it’s possible Labour will change, but given their history it’s reasonable to relate with them as they are not as we hope they will be.

        • weka 15.1.1.1

          Putting this in as a separate comment. If you want to understand the anger towards Labour and the reason JA’s positivity and compassionate personality alone aren’t enough in the meantime, then consider that Labour in the past have contributed directly to the situation we are in with welfare now. Let that sink in. Labour have historically harmed beneficiaries.

          So it’s not that Labour can’t do better or haven’t changed, I think they will and have – that they’ve given fixing WINZ to the Greens is a really good sign.

          But that doesn’t mean they will get some of these fundamental things right. Maybe they do have a secret plan to raise benefits and as McFlock says, are just waiting until its politically safe to do so. Or maybe it’s as I contend, that their focus on work means they see poverty relief as primarily about getting people into work and changing services (e.g. HNZ). The problem here is that we just don’t know. You can trust Labour, but it’s perfectly valid for other people to not trust them until that trust is earned.

      • tracey 15.1.2

        Clark didnt have emotional intelligence? Based on what?

        • patricia bremner 15.1.2.1

          Hi Tracey, that was perhaps poorly expressed through context really.

          I was involved with Helen and Jan Walker in Rotorua. I have seen Helen coldly furious over another L/member’s stance on a topic.

          She could retreat emotionally and make a managerial decision in a very calculated manner, often with a bone cutting remark.

          At the same time she could be openly critical (mind you we are talking about Lange and his fish and chip friends and nuclear free)Helen was annoyed he had ruffled the Americans feathers.( Now I know about 5 eyes)

          Jacinda looks for common ground, for points of agreement to build upon.

          I was lucky to spend time with Jacinda Andrew and Tamati Coffey in Rotorua. The Team building was very evident, and worked.

  16. patricia bremner 16

    Weka points taken.

  17. Descendant Of Sssmith 17

    Maybe they do have a secret plan to raise benefits and as McFlock says, are just waiting until its politically safe to do so.

    It’s politically safe right now. They’ve said they want to lift poverty – these people are the poorest – just do it and add a rent freeze as well so landlords don’t pinch it!

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