This afternoon John Key and Paula Bennett announced the National Party’s long-heralded welfare reform package. As I expected, it is a punitive war on the poor that will harass beneficiaries into low paid jobs, or in many cases off benefit and into no job at all because the jobs simply don’t exist. Metiria says National is backing the wrong horse. I agree.
Earlier this year I went on an extensive tour of the country, consulting with communities about welfare reform. My full report on the tour is here.
My regional welfare tour reminded me that a once respected welfare system has been destroyed and its original context of a Government commitment to full employment, state housing for all in need and fair benefit rates has been lost. The grim poverty of low benefits and low wages has been normalised and individuals are routinely blamed for their inability to find work, or be well enough to work. Child raising by parents has no value if the parent is single and reliant on the state. Caring for people has no value if it prevents people from being available for paid work. Disabled people should compete in the job market.
All these messages and the associated double speak assist maintaining structural unemployment and a low wage economy. The human cost is a disgrace.
Communities want models of fairness and hope and decent state support when people are in need. People need to be treated with dignity by the state and by the media, rather than scapegoated. Creative solutions to job creation and participation in society should be facilitated by all sectors of our society, including government, business and community.
The Green Party’s plan to create 100,000 new jobs will help move beneficiaries who are able to work into employment. The National Party’s punitive beneficiary bashing approach will just push beneficiaries into greater poverty and despair.