Hundreds of children are being made to suffer because of a surge in benefit sanctions being applied by the National Government. Figures came out this week showing that there has been a 50% increase in people with dependent children having their benefits sanctioned this year. We don’t know quite how many children this affects, because the Minister refuses to keep figures on it. I feel for the kids in this country who are forced out of their homes; hungry, sick and with their parent/s in distress. These kids have done nothing wrong, yet they are being punished by this Government.
It makes me sick to think of this Government saying glib things like “being on a benefit is not a lifestyle,” in response to soaring numbers of benefit sanctions. What this heartless policy means is this: if anything goes wrong for a person on a benefit, they end up having to make do with 50% less of their income – or in some cases their whole benefit is suspended. This means if you don’t receive the letter saying you have an appointment, or if your kid is sick, or if the bus doesn’t arrive, or if you have an asthma attack on your way to WINZ, then you will be punished financially. The possibilities are endless for why you might miss an appointment. Things go wrong, accidents happen, yet the Government has no mercy.
The options are pretty stark for someone on a benefit who has had their benefit cut. I am in no doubt that these benefit sanctions would have meant misery for families around New Zealand. If you are on a benefit, things are already impossibly tough financially. There is no excess spending that can be comfortably postponed, or economised further. This Government is making families suffer so that it can spin some political rhetoric. Shame on them.
The Government has a world view that the so-called ‘problem’ of people being out of work can be ‘fixed’ by punishment or threatening people. If this world view matched reality we would have seen a much greater reduction of people needing income support, and a reduction in people being sanctioned. Neither of these things have happened.
The National Government set an arbitrary target of reducing people on the Jobseeker Support benefit by 25% from 2014 to 2018. They are way off meeting this target. Their approach doesn’t work – there are reasons that people need income support, and this Government is doing nothing to address this, or to help people live in dignity. This Government is stigmatising people on benefits for their own political signalling.