Thursday, April 22, 2021

Moving people off benefit is "the old paradigm"

MSD set up a division of case managers to work with people who enter the benefit system very young and/or are "entrenched" beneficiaries. They have a smaller caseload and can work more intensively on other barriers to work the client is experiencing.

A qualitative evaluation of the service has been published and (perhaps understandably)  there seems to be no overall data regarding how successful the programme was/is in getting people independent. 

"Time off-benefit for clients assigned to the ICS treatment group, as compared to those assigned to the control group (and who continue to receive services as normal), is the key metric by which the success of the ICS trial is assessed.7"

Go to footnote 7 to find:

"7 Ministry of Social Development: Intensive Client Support (ICS) Trial Evaluation: Interim 12 Months Evaluation, pg 23. Unpublished internal report." 

Perhaps the quantitative data will come later. We are told, "Of the 26 trial participants interviewed for this research, seven had achieved off-benefit outcomes, although three had subsequently returned to the benefit, one having lost their job, one returning due to an injury, and one due to seasonal work finishing."

Not flash. But the case managers evaluate their own success differently. Two views:

I must resist any pressure from certain staff who are still in the old paradigm of just moving people off benefit as quickly as possible. It’s not about numbers, these are people. They’re people who, if you don’t do anything with them, sure, will cost the government over their lifetime. But the downstream effects are not just one benefit for a lifetime, it’s use of the criminal justice system, their children’s failures and risks. Who cares if they stay on a benefit if it means they don’t go back to jail, if they can get help for their trauma in childhood, if they learn to read and write better so they feel more positive, if they are able to leave the house more. It’s about improving their lives to make society better. (ICSM)

Measuring success rates are quite difficult because who says they’ve done well, and how is that measured? And that’s quite hard for your personal development to go “Oh well I’ve got so many people, this person has been showing up to appointments” and so that’s an achievement to me. But my manager’s like “no, how many people have you got into work?” (ICSM) 

Isn't this illuminating?

On the one hand I have some sympathy for their efforts and priorities. And of course, behind the numbers are real people.

But it also concerns me that the damage the benefit system has done in some families and sectors is so great, self-sufficiency is now a secondary consideration. Just rescuing some people from themselves is enough.

If  'moving people off benefit' is the "old paradigm" have we lost the battle?

When I worked with beneficiaries I resisted trying to solve their problems by trying to get more WINZ money or a food parcel. I tried to help them find practical solutions or make better decisions. But I eventually identified that the biggest obstacle to them making changes was the guarantee of cash in their bank account every week regardless of how they lived their lives. Not uniformly but typically.

1 comment:

Shadows said...

Cash in their bank account every week.


The key thing for me is, how much should that be? It should be hard to live on. Human nature being what it is, some will take advantage if its too much.

But how on earth do you determine the right amount, given the myriad of differences in everyone's lives?