by Catherine Delahunty
It’s great to see the lively discussion continuing on my post last week about the future directions of welfare policy.
There is a view being circulated by some that the Government’s Welfare Working Group’s Options Paper doesn’t deserve much attention; that it follows the Brash 2025 Taskforce formula of misrepresenting the issue as some massive problem; presenting extremist ‘solutions’ that have failed overseas; and that like the Brash reports, the Welfare Working Group’s final report will be binned by the Government, its real purpose being to make National’s proposed welfare cuts seem moderate by comparison.
I beg to differ from that view. Without any economic achievement to campaign on, another round of beneficiary bashing could well be on National’s agenda to shore up the redneck vote for next year’s election.
Yesterday, John Key confirmed he “wanted final proposals from the welfare working group, due to report in February, translated into policy by the next election”. On top of Paula Bennett’s comments earlier in the year that the welfare debate could get ugly, I think that there is a very real danger the Government will seriously consider implementing some of the more extreme options being put up by the Welfare Working Group, such as time-limited benefits, reducing benefit levels for long-term beneficiaries, and/or work-for-the-dole.
So I think it is vital that people engage with the Welfare Working Group’s Options paper, pointing out the flawed analysis on which it is based, and the failure of many of the options proposed when implemented overseas to achieve anything other than increasing the poverty and hardship of the most vulnerable.
It would be great to submit some positive alternatives as well: ideas that will improve the standard of living of beneficiaries; provide genuine incentives, rather than punitive sanctions, to encourage those who can enter the paid workforce to do so; and above all provide some jobs for them to go to. I expect some good ideas along those lines will come out of the Alternative Welfare Working Group’s second report due out next week.
The Government’s Welfare Working Group has given a very short timeframe for submissions. The deadline is 24 December. You can make your submission through this submission form (note and work around the heavily loaded questions); or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: As has been pointed out at the start of the comments on this post, there is a campaign led by David Farrar to encourage beneficiary bashers to submit in support of the most oppressive options the Welfare Working Group is putting up. All the more reason for submissions from a more rational and compassionate perspective.