The Social Assistance (Future Focus) Bill has been referred to Parliament’s Social Services Select Committee for submissions.
This is an ideologically inspired beneficiary-bashing Bill that lacks any evidential support for most of its provisions. The Regulatory Impact Statement from the Ministry of Social Development that accompanied its introduction stated:
There is no research currently available which accurately quantifies the size of the behavioural response from these changes in policies. This prevents estimates, with the degree of accuracy required, from being made of the number of people who will move from benefit to work over a year, as a result of the proposed changes.
In other words, Paula Bennett and her Ministry have no idea whether it will actually work. Other criticisms of the Bill are that:
- It discriminates on the basis of gender, marital status and family status and has been criticised by the Government’s own Attorney General, Christopher Finlayson, as being “…inconsistent with s 19(1) of the Bill of Rights Act and that this cannot be justified under s 5 of that Act.”
- It proposes to force domestic purposes beneficiaries whose youngest child is aged 6 or over into the workforce. When a similar policy was introduced in the late 1990s it had little impact in reducing DPB numbers. It also has serious implications for the welfare of children, with a high likelihood of children being left “home alone” by parents who are forced to work but cannot arrange adequate childcare in the school holidays.
- It proposes to force people on sickness benefit suffering from sickness and disability into the workforce with an effective income gain of less than $1 an hour if they earn more than $80 a week. Both domestic purposes and sickness beneficiaries, because of their disadvantage in the labour market, are likely to find themselves competing for low-paid and casual or temporary work – hardly the recipe for closing the income gap with Australia.
Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty have produced a submission guide to assist people wanting to make submissions opposing this Bill. The deadline for submissions is Friday 14 May 2010.