Paula Bennett: Celebrating social policy failure while refusing to answer questions on Christchurch

Yesterday, the Minister of Social Development and Employment issued this bizarre media release:

Recently released figures show that Work and Income are helping more people in need says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

“Special Needs Grants for hardship have increased by over 50 per cent since March 2008,” says Ms Bennett.

“So yes, that does mean that more people have been asking for help, but it also means that they getting it,” says Ms Bennett.

Yes, Paula is celebrating because the number of people receiving emergency hardship assistance has increased by 50% since she has been the Minister!

Of course she doesn’t tell us how many people, like “Maree”, whose case was reported in the NZ Herald yesterday, have been refused Special Needs Grants because of this rule she introduced:

In order to receive a Special Needs Grant a client must: …

  • have taken reasonable steps to improve their financial circumstances including completing a budgeting activity (if required)…

Perhaps I should ask her.  But I‘ll probably just get an answer like this one to questions I recently asked her:

Question: How many people were receiving the unemployment benefit in Christchurch on February 22nd 2010?

Answer Text: To meet the public interest in benefit uptake the Ministry of Social Development releases quarterly benefit factsheets. I am not prepared to commit resources to releasing daily or weekly information to respond to written parliamentary questions as this is not well suited to establishing firm trends. The quarterly factsheets for the end of March 2011 will be available shortly. This is also my response to written parliamentary questions 2032, 2033, 2034 (2011).

That’s right – even given the devastation of the February 22 earthquake, this Minister thinks it is a waste of resources to keep tabs on benefit uptake by the dispossessed of Christchurch!

I’m at a loss for words [actually, I never am, but the words that spring to mind in this instance would be unbecoming for an MP to use in a public forum].

7 Comments Posted

  1. I am surprised getting the data cannot be arrived at by simply running a pre-written programme designed to get the figures. The programme that produced the report for 31/12/10 can simply be run overnight for the whatever day you want. Hell, when I was a wee lad, the departments I worked for you could do this with SAS. And whats more, we did it. Public Servants and Ministers honoured the Parliamentary process involved with PQ! PB is being obstructive I suspect because she has not had anyone spin her a story to explain how good she is……
    Reality is that the quake was not causewd by her jumping up and down, hence the UB figures have little to do with her assuming WK&I are performing and from my oberservation re Chch is that Wk&I staff have tried hard responding to the quake – after all many case managers have gone to go help out either in Chch or at the posting stations some Chch residents flocked to post 22/02. Those fleeing were the ones that could afford to leave that city and were for the most part well ttreated.Those already on benefits have not been among those fleeing their city and their plight has been more mixed.
    More interestingly though is PB’s response to the 50% increasse in hardship assistance. As Catherine indicates, this has some how been spun into how well her case managers are NOW doing in relation to hoiw case mgers are providing assistance to fellow NZers who beg for food. While an improvementr is welcome, my question is:
    Where they falling before she was Ministerial given control?
    Answer: well yes! Supplementary: Are they still falling? – Yes!!
    Some proof: Salvation Army Food Parcel statistics:
    2009 = 22,400. 2010 = 26,000.

  2. Paula Bennett in Parliament said that she hasn’t received any advice about the impact on the people of Christchurch once her emergency benefit ends, which then led to the question, ‘Why haven’t you sought any advice on what the impact of ending the emergency benefit on the people of Christchurch will be? Her response was the utterly unconvincing and detail-less “Yeah-nah, we’ll look after everyone”. :Quote taken from Bomber on Tumeke blog. The real question is should we vote for Paula and her corporate sponsored gang of anti-social hollow men at the next election? Yeah-nah! They can go and get rubber ducked!

  3. Catherine; I am not adverse to a bit of colourfull language, so may I suggest you make an appeal to frog to make an exception of his moderation duties.

    I think you should be given a little free-expression to release your pent up emotions; it’s healthy you know.

    We will understand!!!!!!

    Or alternately take along a box of well matured eggs to the house!!!!!!

  4. One would expect, given all the nonsense associated with applying for and being granted unemployment benefits, that the data for the end of January and for the end of March, would be sufficent, and being able to look up the monthlies isn’t going to be hard.

    Hell, the last quarter of last year and this one will give a fairly good understanding of the scope of the problem there… but the MINISTER should have been looking at this ALREADY, and should have AT THE TIP OF HER FINGERS the answer to how unemployment rolls were affected by the earthquake in Christchurch.

    If she were even marginally competent she would.

    That she resorted to obfuscation and bluster leads me to sympathize with Catherine about the need to use the “reserved words” to describe that performance.

    It isn’t bad enough that they are ideologically driven. This is fundamentally criminal negligence.


  5. @MacDoctor 12:26 PM

    MPs often ask questions of Ministers to try to score political points, and I would agree that in normal circumstances asking for weekly unemployment benefit statistics would be somewhat frivolous.

    But the Christchurch earthquake is not a normal circumstance, and I would expect there is significant public interest in information about how government agencies are responding to it. And the resources that are required to answer questions like that are not large – it’s not like the 1970s when they would have had to manually search records – the data should be able to be retrieved from MSD’s computer system in a matter of a few minutes.

  6. So you are upset because Ms Bennett says WINZ are coping with their increased work load and because she is refusing to waste money on pointless inaccurate weekly updates on unemployment stats?
    I fail to appreciate your point, assuming you have one

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