Helping people help themselves

Welfare reforms developed by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett passed into law yesterday.

“The changes we’re introducing will modernise and simplify the welfare system,” Mrs Bennett said.

“They will also ensure work expectations and social obligations are balanced with the right incentives and support.” . .

“The legislation also introduces new social obligations to ensure children in benefit-dependent homes get quality Early Childhood Education, are enrolled with a doctor, get their Well Child checks and are in school if they are school-age,” Mrs Bennett said.

The law will also require Jobseekers to be drug-free, and will allow benefits to be stopped for outstanding arrest warrants.

“Over 40 per cent of jobs advertised with Work and Income require a drug test. It is simply unacceptable that many are unable to work and take up available job opportunities because of recreational drug use.”

An actuarial valuation based on the expected durations of all current beneficiaries shows the lifetime costs to be $78 billion.

The investment approach will target interventions and support to those most at risk of long-term welfare dependence.

“By investing in people sooner, we can actually start to break that cycle of dependence.”

“Jobseeker Support will include those capable of work and those who are temporarily exempt, but will soon be able to work,” says Mrs Bennett.

This includes those currently on the Sickness Benefit, who according to work capability, will have a part-time or full-time work expectation or a temporary exemption until they are work-ready.

People currently receiving Women Alone or Widows Benefit will retain their higher rate of benefit when they transfer to Jobseeker Support and along with those on the DPB, they’ll also retain current part-time benefit abatement rules.

“Benefit rates will remain unchanged and there will be extra support for those who want to work but need more help to get them ready,” says Mrs Bennett.

The current annual reapplication for the Unemployment Benefit will apply to all those on the new Jobseeker benefit.

The opposition thinks these reforms are beneficiary bashing.

On the contrary they are designed to ensure those in genuine need get the assistance they require and help those who could support themselves to become independent.

As it was, the welfare system trapped people on benefits and didn’t provide support some people need to be able and willing to work.

That came at a very high cost for those on long term benefits and those of us who pay for them.

Helping people into work improves their long term prospects and decreases the long term costs of welfare.

Today in Parliament the final Welfare Reform Bill will be read a third time

5 Responses to Helping people help themselves

  1. TraceyS says:

    Surely this is better than indiscriminate across-the-board cuts to benefit rates.


  2. Dave Kennedy says:

    I wonder when we will see the improvement in people’s lives? Our wealthiest New Zealanders are still enjoying steady increases in wealth while the levels of child poverty haven’t changed. UNICEF rates us as one of the worst for how we look after our children and we have one of the highest youth suicide rates.

    The median family income is dropping steadily, although the average is going up because of the increases being experienced in the top two quintiles.

    For some, drug testing them and forcing them into work will be a good thing but I hardly think that tough love is the only answer to our problems.

    Our support agencies are under-staffed and under-resourced, the government has not supported the majority of the Law Commission’s recommendations on managing alcohol (surely one of the worst contributors to many of our family problems) and I know in schools the promised support for our struggling children has never really happened (the money has gone to bailing out a private secondary school). The funding cuts to the Education Ministry saw a drop in Special Education support and we have lost most of our advisors.

    The often used explanation that “we are cutting funding to strengthen front line services” is a joke!

    While I am a great supporter of early childhood education, forcing children into institutions so that mothers can work in casual, low paid jobs (the reality for most) is not necessarily good for kids. We already have one of the highest levels of working mothers in the OECD. We also spend well below the average on ECE (the OECD average as a % of GDP is 1%, we spend around .6%).

    Helping people to help themselves is great if this is what it really means, but in many cases it will mean forcing people into low paid casual work with no ability to lift themselves out of the cycle of poverty. Remember a good number of families living in poverty are employed, we now have a growing number of working poor.

    According to the Round table supported, New Zealand Institute, has a report card that assesses our economic, social and environmental status and it rated inequality and family wealth as a “D”. I tried to get a link to it again but it does’t seem to exist any more. Perhaps like the five yearly environmental reporting that has been stopped, this has been too. We don’t need to know how bad things really are when the Government keeps telling us that there is nothing to worry about.


  3. TraceyS says:

    “Our wealthiest New Zealanders are still enjoying steady increases in wealth while the levels of child poverty haven’t changed…”

    Here are some facts which might back up your point:

    “Between March 2000 and 2012, overall average teacher pay (salary plus allowances) in state and state integrated schools increased as follows.

    •Secondary teachers’ average pay increased 54.8%, from $47,764 to $73,955.

    •Primary teachers’ average pay increased 64.5% from $42,358 to $69,660.

    •Area school teachers’ average pay increased 57.8% from $45,936 to $72,470.

    •Overall, teachers’ average pay increased 60.6% from $44,542 to $71,526.”


    Much of the rest of what you are saying is logical enough. Those who recognise these problems need to get off our backsides and do something to help, whether in government or not.


  4. Dave Kennedy says:

    Interesting that you chose teachers as an example, TracyS, I’m not sure of your point in using this sector as an example of the top two quintiles. The likes of Solid Energy, and the huge salaries their upper management received, while being an SOE, must surely be a better one. Don Elder himself saw his pay increase by 400% over half the time that teachers saw a 50% increase. In this case we are talking in terms of hundreds of thousands, not $30,000 over 12 years.

    You also must admit that the Government has a huge role to play and it is generally about priorities than lack of money. $12 billion on motorways, where many have failed cost benefit analysis, will not make a difference for struggling families and neither will the $36 million being spent on the America’s cup.

    Spending money in itself is not the answer but if poor kids get the right support in the early years then we don’t have to spend $91,000 a year to keep them in prison.


  5. TraceyS says:

    I didn’t go looking for better examples, but I’m sure they do exist, like you have pointed out.

    Do agree with your last statement. Love and play are two fundamental things that kids need and they are both free. One good thing about our welfare system is that it still gives parents and their kids plenty of opportunity for bonding and attachment if parents choose to use their time that way. In fact, from what I have seen, some families on the DPB enjoy more of this opportunity than two parent working families. And as we all know it is often not a straight choice for many whether they do work or don’t work.


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