Jan Logie

Aspirational beneficiaries get shut down and shamed

by Jan Logie

Last week, the Associate Minister for Social Development, Chester Borrows, told the House (and by virtue of that the whole country) that beneficiary Tania Wysocki of Pukekohe was getting “the equivalent of a salary of $43,000 a year plus her entitlement to 20 hours’ early childhood education”. He also said that she is no worse off without the Training Incentive Allowance.

Tania has been getting a hard time about this. People working hard in low paid jobs now think she’s a bludger and are telling her so. The truth is though that someone working 30 hours a week on the minimum wage is still $87.28 a week better off than Tania. In fact, Tania is currently living below the poverty line.

Someone in Tania’s circumstances but in employment rather than study and earning $43,000 a year would get the same amount of childcare assistance and Family Tax Credit as Tania gets in addition to his or her salary. She or he would also get the In Work Tax Credit of $60 a week which Tania, as a student, cannot receive, and an Accommodation Supplement of $47.  Overall, he or she would have $327 a week more disposable income than Tania does.

The Associate Minister’s response in the House last week represents the worst type of cynical politics. Setting beneficiaries up against low paid workers is an old ploy to keep the marginalised down. It annoys me when it’s done in a generalised way, but to do this to an individual is a cruel type of politics.

The Government tells us the answer to child poverty is getting parents off the DPB. Yet when they’re presented with a woman studying to try to get off the DPB early and into a well-paid job they vilify her.

Here’s her story to give you more of a sense of reality:

Tania Wysocki , mother of two gorgeous children, has discovered that the only way she can cover the costs of higher study is by doing escort work, which she doesn’t want to do.

Tania left school with school certificate and has been working pretty much since then on stud farms. The unskilled work isn’t very well paid though and when she tried to go back to work after having children she was $60 pw worse off after travel and childcare costs were factored in.

Being highly motivated to build a better life for herself and her children Tania investigated a veterinary nursing course and was accepted based on her prior work experience. Tania doesn’t have to work or study but because she wants off the DPB she wants to do this now so she can get into well paid and fulfilling work.  Unfortunately the course is a level 6(degree level) course and the Government changed the rules last term and stopped the entitlement for the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA) for higher level courses. The TIA would have covered pretty much all of Tania’s travel and childcare costs. Without the TIA she is $113.42  a week short. It’s categorically untrue that she is not worse off without it.

The course is full time and the only work that will enable her to see her children and get some sleep/study done to cover that shortfall is escorting. She can earn the short-fall in a couple of hours and pay a friend to mind her children during that time. There is no other employer who will pay enough to cover the costs of childcare and let her spend time with her children every second weekend. When you look at it it’s really just a common sense solution. The only problem is that Tania doesn’t really want to do sex work and all of us know this is not a job to do when you don’t want to.

Tania is a brave woman who has spoken out knowing she will probably not get the benefit of a policy change but hopes others after her will. She’s exposed all her finances to the glare of New Zealand to this end.  I admire her.

Look at these numbers and tell me what costs could be cut. Actually, better yet, write and tell the Minister.

Income per week
DPB: $288.47
Accom. supplement: $131.00
Family tax credits: $149.23
Childcare subsidy: $138.24
Loan ($500/30 weeks): $16.67

Total: $723.61

Costs
Rent: $280.00
Groceries: $150.00
Petrol, car repairs etc: $67.00
Car & other insurances: $22.73
Phone: $17.50
Power: $12.50
Debt repayments: $12.50
Christmas club: $5.00
Childcare: $196.60
Train pass: $72.20
Total: $837.03

Shortfall: $113.42

I can only assume the Minister misrepresented and vilified Tania because her story exposes the hypocrisy and true results of the Government’s policies. This Government does not support social mobility or the kiwi battler. Social Development Minister Paula Bennett herself used the TIA to get a degree and now she is pulling the ladder up after her to keep parents in low paid work.