Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Work and Income to start living up to their name

(Here I am in my 50s and yesterday was the first time in my life I involuntarily lost a paying job.  My sympathies to the full-time staff affected by the demise of the 126 year-old newspaper.)

The following was going to be next week's, now defunct Truth column:

In the middle of next month all major welfare benefits will end. Hopefully that's got your attention! It's true. The domestic purposes, invalid, sickness and unemployment benefits will disappear forever. Don't panic though. They will be replaced by Jobseeker Support, Sole Parent Support and Supported Living Payment.  My initial response to this re-labelling exercise was weary cynicism. Why is the government bothering?

The major reason - Work and Income is set to become far more work-focussed than ever before and recategorising more people onto Jobseeker Support means more people will have work obligations. Apparently there will be 132,500 jobseeker beneficiaries, most with full-time work obligations. These will include women with children aged 14 or older who've come from the DPB. The minority with part-time obligations will include people who've come from the sickness benefit. If people suitable for jobs that require drug-free status can't pass a drug-test, they'll lose half of their benefit. If this happens a second time, their benefit (and any other assistance) will be suspended. The government says it's reasonable to expect people on a benefit not to engage in behaviours that limit their ability to find work.

Under the new system, the only beneficiaries who won't be expected to look for work are those on the Supported Living Payment, ex invalid beneficiaries, carers of the sick or infirm; and those on the Sole Parent Support with a child under 5 (though the last group will have planning-for-work obligations). Sole parents with children of school age will need to look for part-time jobs.

There are risks. Cabinet identifies them. One, if the economic revival falters, jobs won't be created and two, if there are IT glitches (think Novopay nightmare) public support for welfare reform and the government will be negatively impacted. For the sake of beneficiaries, and the prospects of a more productive, wealthier and healthier country, let's hope neither of these possibilities become realities.


S.Beast said...

IT glitches are a fact of modern life.

Besides, I doubt it will make any difference to the numbers but will predictably increase the cost of running the ministry. I guess we will see.

Anonymous said...

In the middle of next month all major welfare benefits will end.

If only, if only, if only! This sad sad story shows how close the Key government came to making a really positive change to NZ - and how it ducked away yet again!

Of course the benefits aren't ending - more's the pity.
And the biggest welfare benefits of all aren't even touched: the super, state hospitals & gps, state schools, state housing, ACC & WFF.

It would have been far, far, simpler and unimaginable better for Key to have made that sentence real - all benefits ended and just stopped there.