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The six-member alternative group has been set up by the Catholic aid and social justice agency Caritas, the Anglican Social Justice Commission and the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation.
Massey University social policy professor Mike O'Brien will chair it. Other members are Lincoln University economist Paul Dalziel, Victoria University welfare law lecturer Maamari Stephens, Anglican Bishop Muru Walters and Disabled Persons Assembly researcher Wendi Wicks.
Former Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro and Child Poverty Action Group co-founder Susan St John will advise the group.
Dr O'Brien, who taught at Massey's Albany campus when Ms Bennett studied there in the 1990s, said he agreed with her that the welfare system needed wide debate.
"One of the really major aims for me is to make sure that those with knowledge and experience at the grassroots are really able to feed into that process," he said.
"The second thing is that the terms of reference that the welfare working group has been given, and therefore the Government's approach to thinking about welfare, is really tight and narrow.
"So we think there is a really important place to be had for trying to ensure that the wider questions about income distribution and jobs and the nature of work and the importance of caring work really get taken into the debate."
Kevin Clements gives particular attention to the relationship between Maori and Pakeha, in both directions. “Who we choose to see and attend to are profoundly political acts. Very often Pakeha do not see and attend to Maori with reverence and respect. Many Maori in turn feel contempt for Pakeha,” he says. “We need to learn how to honour the other. We, i.e. Maori and Pakeha, need to work out how to develop a common vision of the future which provides space for all New Zealanders to realise their full potential.
What sort of society do we want? And how might a collective vision contribute to reducing long-term benefit receipt?
It is incredibly frustrating for me to note, that successive generations of our youth have come to believe that benefit receipt is a career choice.
Who tells them this stuff? Who gets them to believe that this is all they can aspire to?
Last year I read a paper that focused on the legacy of Maori benefit receipt and the contribution of the welfare state to this unprecedented dependency.
While there were many aspects of the paper that I could agree with I felt that essentially it lacked a much broader analyses of the political economy.
It did not even begin to analyse the root cause that underpinned the level of benefit passivity that I perceive among some of our most gifted youth.
In short, the paper failed to define the collective problem to be solved.
Similar to other analyses that focuses only on the subjects of long-term benefit receipt the paper overlooked the context that produced the human experience under scrutiny.
Unable to resolve the issue of so-called ‘Maori benefit receipt’, it collapsed back onto its subject where individual pathology or effect is a shallow proxy for cause.
A sure sign that we have yet to define the problem is to confuse effect with cause.