Paula Bennett says “most people” will see last week’s welfare changes as “fair and reasonable”. She is almost certainly right. But is that the limit of her ambition?
A majority doesn’t make something right. Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, a lawyer’s lawyer, ruled that, under the Bill of Rights, Ms Bennett’s changes are not fair: they discriminate on grounds of sex, marital status and family status in applying the work requirement to those on a domestic purposes benefit whose youngest child is six but not to those on a widow’s benefit or a woman alone on the DPB. Her new law does not qualify for exemption from the Bill of Rights either on the ground that it “serves an important and significant objective” or that it is “proportionate to that objective”.
I’ve been meaning to blog on this issue. It is important to understand that what the Attorney0General has said is not that work-testing beneficiaries is against the bill of rights, He has said, that applying the work test to the DPB but not the Widows Benefit is unjustified discrimination.
He’s right. But the solution is not to not implement work testing. It is to indeed apply it to the widow’s benefit and woman alone benefit also.
In fact I would go further. I would abolish those benefits. They were well intentioned benefits from the days when most women did not work, and relied on their husband’s income. Those days are gone.
I would grandfather in existing recipients, and have some sort of temporary allowance(say six to 12 months) for any non working person who relies on their partner’s income, and the partner dies. It should apply to both genders, and after a period of time, then they should be in employment or go onto one of the mainstream benefits.
The widow’s benefit and woman alone benefits are sexist relics of our past. They were necessary when we lived in a society where women were not encouraged to work, but as 50% more women are now going to university than men, those days are long ago.Tags: benefits, Colin James