A good editorial from the Dom Post:
The Social Development Ministry appears to believe that the increases, which mirror international trends, are beyond its control. An investigation by the auditor-general found the ministry paid little more than lip service to changes made by the last government to improve the vetting of beneficiary claims and better prepare sickness and invalid beneficiaries for a return to full or part-time employment.
Extra staff had been hired and the wording of medical certificates changed to provide more information about claimants’ health, but the ministry had not established contact with many long-term beneficiaries, was not actively managing the cases of many of those who might be able to return to work, was not applying sanctions to beneficiaries who refused to co-operate, and was not monitoring the effectiveness of the changes.
And people wonder why so many are sceptical of the increase in numbers.
Perhaps the most damning of the auditor-general’s findings was that 24,000 people had been continuously on the sickness benefit for more than a year, despite it being intended for those with a “short-term medical condition”.
I suspect many of those 24,000 cite drug addiction as their sickness. I’d rather we fund them into treatment, rather than keep paying them the sickness benefit.
The majority of those on both benefits deserve public sympathy. But there is sufficient evidence of people slipping through the cracks in the system to suggest that numbers can be significantly reduced by more active case management. The department’s southern region office reduced the number of beneficiaries on its books by 134 in six weeks when it established a team to interview sickness beneficiaries aged between 25 and 49.
For that reason, the recent indications that National ministers are preparing to implement their pre-election promise to make it tougher to sign up for and stay on both the sickness and invalid’s benefit are welcome. Those who are permanently incapacitated deserve all the help the state can offer. So do those taking their first tentative steps back into the workforce. Government plans to increase the amount long-term beneficiaries can earn from part-time work make sense.
However, a short-term medical condition, no matter how debilitating, is not a reason for a life of dependency.
Neither is being a solo parent.Tags: Dominion Post, welfare