Summary of the first day of hearings on welfare reform

There were several very powerful submissions from people talking about what these changes would have meant for them as well as some very personal presentations that spoke quite deeply to our values and compassion, and the potential for a loss of life due to these changes.

The Home schooling lobby was very well represented and made some strong points about how much money home schooling is saving the Government and the positive educational outcomes of home schooling, which are undercut by the Bill as it is currently written.

There was support for welfare reform and protection of New Zealand’s most vulnerable but significant disagreement about how to do that.

The Caritas submission brought a couple of quiet tears to my eyes that hopefully no-one noticed. The sense of futility and disappointment they’re feeling with the entire parliamentary system is deeply concerning. Lisa Beech has been presenting to select committees for 25 years and has never felt it was more meaningless.  It was also strangely reassuring in a very saddening way because it made me realise that my experience and concern that I wasn’t finding a way to speak into the process in a way that managed to result in any particularly effective change, wasn’t necessarily anything to do with me. Reassuring but also quite worrying, because what is the point if we can’t make a difference. The Chair, of course, reassured Caritas that they were listening and did really value their contribution. I hope this is so.

Caritas help up the Dominion Post advertisement with the full page headline Where are the Jobs. They were challenged rather bizarely I thought by a member of the National party that this headline didn’t necessarily represent the editorial line of the paper but was rather probably just a quote made by someone else.  They also spoke simply and eloquently about values of compassion for the vulnerable.

The Legislation Advisory Committee, a committee of the attorney general, also gave a very strong submission raising significant concerns about the state of the Act which has been amended 131 times with 54 new sections added since it was first written. They noted that this Act really matters in the trenches to people especially to people who don’t have the money to get a lawyer to interpret the Act for them. I would also note that it also creates an unnecessary pressure on the case workers who are expected to be able to administer the ACT. The lack of clarity and the over 50 points of discretion cuts across guidelines for legislation and the cabinet manual advice.

Regulations must be reviewable but who wants to head off to judicial review.

There is a fundamental constitutional principle that people should be able to know their rights and entitlements.  It creates risks for individuals and also risk in terms of litigation when their rights and entitlements are unclear.

The New Zealand Council for Christian Social Services agreed we need to invest in people and agreed that most people on benefits would like to work if given the chance. Given that don’t understand direction of this Bill. In business we don’t incentivise activities by punishing usually done with rewarding.

Know that benefits are the absolute minimum and many currently live in poverty. They would like to see acknowledgement that good parents deserve additional support. What an opportunity to support families. Currently it’s heart breaking to see good parents caught up in the desperation of poverty.

The organisation has concerns specifically regarding the impact of these changes on people struggling mental illness and believe the additional stress of work testing and possible sanctions could increase mental illness.

They would like the Government to think more about how we can support good employment practices. They noted that new employees are not entitled to sick leave until they’ve been in a job for 6 months and for sole parents this can put them on a benefit work benefit cycle, that doesn’t actually help anyone.

In response to a National party MP questioning re how to break intergenerational welfare dependency NZCCSS noted generational family disadvantage shows in many ways one is the break-down of wider family structures which often means sole parents can be really sole parents without any of the wider family supports that others may take for granted. This cycle will not be broken by these reforms. They noted the cycle of disadvantage in this country whakapapas back to the welfare reforms of the eighties. Clearly this would indicate a different approach would be the best way to break that cycle, and that this Bill is actually an extension of those reforms rather than any break.

 Plus to add my two bits – intergenerational welfare dependency is a bit of a myth to begin with. Research has not shown causation only a pretty small correlation. This is in the same camp for me as trying to fix child poverty by getting parents off welfare – disingenuous at best.

 NZCCSS proposes a child welfare test rather than a work test.

28 thoughts on “Summary of the first day of hearings on welfare reform

  1. Jan

    could you, or someone who works for you, please edit this article/posting? i’m afraid I fouund it too difficult to work out where the commas and missing words went, and when I came across the word “whakapapas” used as a verb I had to give up, or admit that I don’t speak my native language any more.

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  2. Its good to see the Greens raising opposition to this Govt. extremist move to the right (especially in 2nd term). My fear is that with their 1 seat ‘majority’ (which they say is a MANDATE to ram through their agenda) they are moving the country toward slashing & burning the ‘welfare net’ & moving the economy toward user pays, reducing minimum wage (or even removing it), reducing or removing workers rights & ‘union busting’.. SHAME on them

    Good onya Jan, for working for the ‘We the people’ as opposed to this Govt. focus on ONLY the top 51% who keep them in power !!

    Kia-ora

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  3. You may have a point… there are several sentences that seem to be missing words… I can infer but not be sure.

    I have to look up Whakapapa in the Maori-English dictionary I have never owned…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whakapapa

    … sounds in usage here like “relates historically back”, and I didn’t know it could be used that way. I don’t object to the mixing of the two languages generally, but it is starting to obscure the actual point here, and that isn’t what we want.

    —————–

    More on point – a link back to the bill (with all the desperate confusion of language that the many amendments have made of it) would be good, and discussion/summation of the changes it actually purports to make.

    National has and has always had, a fixation on the notion that a lot of people are in permanent poverty because they choose to be.

    It isn’t well supported, but it is a very POPULAR idea. The abusers are often the Newspaper headlines as the sub-culture created by the “war on drugs” makes it all too likely that there will be death and injury in the resulting mess.

    So we do have to wonder what this “reform” bill will do. There seems to be one with every election/government and you’d think that they’d be able to get it right after so many attempts… but that sort of optimism would be misplaced.

    :-)

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  4. Jan says “intergenerational welfare dependency is a bit of a myth to begin with.”

    Is that the Green Party stance?

    If you’ve got no solutions, simply call something a myth and pretend it doesn’t exist?

    BJ says “National has and has always had, a fixation on the notion that a lot of people are in permanent poverty because they choose to be.”

    Funny how when the unemployment benefit is taken away, like for Kiwis in UK and Australia and every other country on the planet, the unemployment rate for Kiwis is virtually zero – even in countries with higher unemployment rates than NZ.

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  5. Funny how if you want to gain residence for work in every other country (except for a Kiwi in Oz) on the planet you have to be qualified in the first place.

    Funny how the act of upping stakes and moving somewhere else actually self-selects for the most active and capable people.

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  6. BJ says “Funny how if you want to gain residence for work in every other country (except for a Kiwi in Oz) on the planet you have to be qualified in the first place. ”

    “every other country….” what complete nonsense.

    I’ve worked in legally in over a dozen countries and not one of them required me to show any qualifications.

    Kerry says “Yes. Inter-generational welfare dependance is a right wing LIE.”

    Yeah right – and the hundreds of families my wifes colleagues deal with every week are all imaginary.

    Talk about being deluded… two great examples above.

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  7. Kerry says “As the overwhelming majority of people on welfare are on it for less than two years except, as you would expect, the sick, the injured and the elderly.”

    170,000 working age people have been on a benefit for most of the last ten years.

    That’s 30,000 more than the total invalids and sickness beneficiaries (and many of whom have not been on it ten years).

    So that’s at least many tens of thousands of mentally and physically able people.

    From a survey of time on a benefit from the Ministry of Social Development
    “Of people aged 28-64 receiving benefit at June 2009 (for whom there is a full ten years since they turned 18), half had spent at least three-quarters of the preceding decade on benefit. Just under a quarter had received benefit for all of the decade.”

    Petending a problem doesn’t exist, guarantees that you will totally fail to find solutions to that problem.

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  8. You get a work visa by having work offered or having qualifications Photonz.

    That is true for an American working in NZ, an American working in Australia, an Australian working in America, a New Zealander working in America, a German working in any of those places, a Russian working in any of those places….

    What examples you are about to trot out I have no idea, but you’re talking nonsense again. I’ve gone this route and I am familiar with immigration procedures and my company sends technicians to many different countries and we know how hung up one can get.

    You are the one who is delusional, claiming that you can just waltz into another country to work without them ascertaining that you already have a job or have the qualifications or both. If you have an example that is in fact relevant you’d best present it. The only country pair I know of which allows workers back and forth without checking, is Australia and NZ… and the second qualification I made on that covers the argument anyway.

    You can’t claim the problem exists based on New Zealanders who go overseas to work NOT getting benefits. You have to make the point another way.

    The statistics tell us that this is a small minority of people on benefits. Your wife and her colleagues may have a specialty dealing with just that group… but anecdote isn’t good argument.

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  9. One needs to extrapolate from those figures the proportion of beneficiaries on a work tested benefit.

    You do realise that apart from IB and SB there are those on the DPB long term?

    The number on the IB (long term sick who will not be able to work) is a figure all of its own.

    Those long term unemployed on a SB and now being work tested while on the new Job Seeker benefit – are going to be long term on the new Job Seeker benefit also. An employer asking about their work history gap (that is if they even get to an interview) is going to find out about their health issues and wonder about the sick leave issues that will arise. Only labour shortages/job creation will overcome this.

    Many of those on the DPB who move onto the Job Seeker benefit (when the children are over 5) will of course be only looking for part-time work, so will remain on the benefit even when they get part-time work.

    So expect the problem of long term dependency amongst the total on welfare to remain stubbornly high.

    Only public health gains – healthy homes, better nutrition etc, with better educational performance (and opportunity to afford further study) and more secure well supported families, as well as more available work will make any difference.

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  10. “”170,000 working age people have been on a benefit for most of the last ten years””.

    Not the same 170k people Photo. Read it again.

    “Of people aged 28-64 receiving benefit at June 2009 (for whom there is a full ten years since they turned 18), half had spent at least three-quarters of the preceding decade on benefit. Just under a quarter had received benefit for all of the decade.”

    BECAUSE THERE IS NO FUCKING JOBS FOR OUR YOUNG PEOPLE. National’s brighter future.

    Someone wise once told me, “at some stage you have to decide what sort of adult you are going to be, part of the problem, or part of the solution”.

    Bj, Jackal, Greenfly and myself, and many others, etc are trying, however imperfectly, to be part of the solution.

    Photo. Your negativity, towards any solutions, shows you are “part of the problem”.

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  11. BECAUSE THERE IS NO FUCKING JOBS FOR OUR YOUNG PEOPLE. National’s brighter future.

    Its actually not got that much to do with National. If the other major party were in power, or even the Greens, there would still not be more meaningful jobs. The simple fact is we have more people of working age than we need, and its getting worse year on year.

    If one is thinking that a shift to the red party will make matters significantly better, one is going to be very disappointed.

    By “meaningful”, I mean proper jobs that are actually required, not busy work.

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  12. Yes, I partly agree with you.

    We can produce much more than we need with a very small workforce due to technology, and energy use.

    However the red party, with a more effective distribution of income can make it easier.

    What is busy work. A personal trainer, the gray cardigans who used to run our power companies for 10’s of thousands in salary, not 100’s, a gardener, a social worker, a mum? Someone making unnecessary short lived junk for export??
    The State industries which used to train thousands of apprentices for our skilled workforce?
    An SOE manager making sure the SOE makes money, but not too much, so he can justify his share options when they are privatized?
    Which are actually required?

    It is something we have to face up to, And the reason why it would be better to have a GMI and shorter working lives rather than allowing a few to capture all the benefits of our extra productivity.

    But, we still have many jobs which do not get done due to a, supposed, shortage of money.
    And the capability of one person using 1000’s of KW of energy, to do a job will not last, either.

    We need to redefine work.

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  13. And. Many jobs where employers run bleating to the immigration department saying they cannot get skilled staff.

    The answer should be, “Do you pay enough to attract or train enough skilled staff”? “Here are over a thousand NZ youngsters who could be trained to do that job”.

    Not. “Here, you can bring in another 200 cheap, half trained foreigners, as the fact you cannot get New Zealanders to do a job requiring 10 years training for $15 an hour shows there is a skills shortage”.

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  14. And the capability of one person using 1000′s of KW of energy, to do a job will not last, either.

    Yeah, when the energy becomes short, human labour will again have some value. Expect slavery to make a comeback.

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  15. And more on why higher wages for ordinary people are good for the economy.

    http://www.alternet.org/economy/black-friday-americans-can-enjoy-low-low-prices-without-suffering-slave-wages?page=0%2C1
    “The study shows that a wage raise at large retail employers to the equivalent of $25,000 per year for a full-time worker would lift 1.5 million workers and the family members they support out of poverty or near poverty. As these workers take their wages back into the market and consumer spending grows, the increase in wages at the bottom would contribute between $11.8 and $15.2 billion in additional GDP over the coming year. That growth would lead employers across sectors to hire more than 100,000 new employees. With gains in GDP and jobs, a raise for low-wage retail workers is a raise for the economy overal”.

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  16. Something not right with that argument. So ‘ordinary’ people are already spending all their money and have no surplus. Give them more and we expect them to still spend it all and still have no surplus (i.e. still be poor)? Sounds like someone’s advocating mindless consumerism to me – not very ‘green’. Can’t say i’m a fan of looking at humans as cogs in a machine who must spend all their money ‘for the greater good’.

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  17. So Hemi.
    We should keep poor people poor just so we can look after the environment and still leave the rich very rich.

    Try and get a majority vote for that…………..

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  18. Kerry
    re:-

    the red party, with a more effective distribution of income can make it easier

    So how effective would this distribution be?
    Should it be that we should all have the same income, irrespective of work done, qualifications earned, availability of skills, etc.? If so I’m all for your idea. I can sit back and earn the same as the Telecom CEO quite happily thank you.

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  19. “Many jobs where employers run bleating to the immigration department saying they cannot get skilled staff.”

    Another cause of ‘labour shortages’ is employers offering temporary seasonal work in areas with little, or sub-standard, housing. Some seem to expect people to uproot themselves, move away from families and friends and quit their accommodation, in return for a few months of poorly paid work, a bed in a caravan and zero long-term prospects. This is known as ‘a flexible labour market’. It would be more accurate to demand ‘increased labour market stupidity’ requiring people to act against their own long term interests.

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  20. Dave. I have never seen anyone here advocating total equality of income.

    It would not work. There needs to be some extra reward for extra effort, responsibility and training.

    The rising inequality we have now does not work either. Apart from anything else, having too much wealth in too few hands is, economically inefficient.

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  21. ““Many jobs where employers run bleating to the immigration department saying they cannot get skilled staff.”

    Another cause of ‘labour shortages’ is employers offering temporary seasonal work in areas with little, or sub-standard, housing.”

    So those employers should just stick with the immigration department because NZers on the dole dont see it as worthwhile to work away from home for a while? There’s a message there – not quite sure what it is ..

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  22. So Kerry.

    There needs to be some extra reward for extra effort, responsibility and training

    So. That’s what we have now, but you don’t like it, despite the fact that it is essentially a free market. (e.g. there are more Arts graduates than the country needs, so they get a little over a basic standard of living wage, but not enough block-buster film makers for the country so we import where we can (Avitar’s Cameron) and see the ones we do ‘create’ rewarded exceptionally well – for which they, in general say thank you by employing less capable film-makers.

    OK.

    So what exactly are you proposing as an alternative to what we have? Without at least a strawman of your xoncept for us to discuss, it’s all just wind and water.

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  23. We have been proposing alternatives for some time.

    In fact for most of those that bother to get more education, training or skills, in NZ, margins for skills are so held down, by policy, that they get little more than the unskilled. That is why we are all heading elsewhere while employers try all sorts of things to avoid paying international market rates.

    It would be better if those with useful contributing skills got a bit more and parasites like these got a lot less.
    http://kjt-kt.blogspot.co.nz/2012/08/the-wealth-creator-myth-stealing.html
    “One of the memes the wealthy and their sycophants prefer to repeat is that, “the wealthy create wealth”.

    That is demonstrably wrong.

    “The wealthy got their wealth by entrepreneurship and starting new business” ?.
    “Well! no. Most are wealthy because they are born with it. The majority of the rest because they gamed our system to make money from existing assets and public utilities. Morally, no different from robbing someones house”.

    Entrepreneurs and skilled workers (Doctors, Builders, Teachers, SME owners.) are almost always, originally, middle or lower middle class.

    “The poor do not have enough assets to lever into the education or finance to get out of the rut, and the rich cannot be bothered.
    Less than 1% of the wealth held by wealthy households in the USA is invested as so called “angel capital”. In reality the wealthy avoid risky start-ups, like the plague. They prefer privatizations of State utilities and financial products where there return is assured by tax payer funding. Those that are too big or too essential for the State to allow them to fail”.

    The majority of the wealthy are parasites off workers.

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  24. Only in NZ do people get to trot out stories of woe about something that happened 25+ years ago and blame it on their predicament today. Which reminds me… during the last 25 years the Labour/Greens coalition presided over history’s biggest bubble – while skiting about everything they were supposedly doing for the underclass. What has happened to that?

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  25. National have been worse than a derelict Government in their approach to unemployment and have made things a lot worse.

    At the same time they have attacked workers rights and conditions enabling bad employers to exploit the unemployed.

    Our youth unemployment is particularly disastrous and so the Nats cut funding to various forms of training, to polytechs and advanced university studies.
    We can sum up the National governments success and effectiveness in tackling unemployment in two words …… cycle way.

    To make matters far worse for the unemployed and others on welfare the Nats dislike them and know there is votes to be had in “ beneficiary bashing “. This is the basis of Nationals welfare reform and it will be unfair and punitive. The Government appointments to oversee these reforms are chosen for their hard right wing bias, the whole things a sham and a jack up …

    A lot of family’s are seeing how tough it is for their kids to get jobs and how National is making it harder and worse for their children …………. a mythical cycle way and boot camps are as pathetic as they sound but that sums up the Nats efforts.

    Now they kick the victims of their piss poor governance ….

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