Using their nous

Grandparents caring for their children’s offspring are a special category of beneficiaries who have been caught up in changes to the welfare system.

Older grandparents who are near retirement age shouldn’t be expected to be working or work ready the way young beneficiaries are.

But I wouldn’t go as far as advocates for grandparents raising grandchildren who are calling for a blanket exemption from work expectations for all grandparents.

People in their 40s who might reasonably be expected to work for another couple of decades aren’t in the same position as those in their 60s.

Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett says it is ridiculous that soon-to-be-retired carers are being told to work under the new welfare regime.

Ms Bennett met Work and Income staff yesterday after reports that grandparents caring for their grandchildren were being asked to get back to work, sometimes just months from retirement.

“It was certainly not my expectation that people only six months away from retirement or who had children that had a special need . . . would be work-tested.”

She had reinforced to staff that beneficiaries should be exempted from work obligations if factors such as age, location, transport or health made it clearly impractical. “I expect staff to use common sense.”

She resisted calls for a separate benefit for grandparent carers, claiming their circumstances varied and some were able, and willing, to work. . .

That is sensible.

Those willing and able to work should be helped to do so for their own sakes as well as that of their grandchildren.

But older ones nearing retirement age or younger ones caring for children with special needs could be excused.

If Work and Income staff didn’t understand they should be using their nous when dealing with these people before, they’ve had a very clear message from the Minister that they should from now on.

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