Dom Post on the sickness beneficiary

August 11th, 2012 at 9:42 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Labour leader tells a good story. Unfortunately, the punchline is missing.

If he can deliver it, voters might start listening to Labour again, but till he does the story serves only to illustrate the paucity of critical thinking within his party.

The story goes like this: during the 2008 election campaign Mr Shearer knocked on a door in his Mt Albert electorate. “See that guy over there,” said the man who came to the door, gesturing to a neighbour’s house. “He’s on a sickness benefit, yet he’s up there painting the roof of his house … Do you guys support him?”

Mr Shearer recounted the encounter at a Grey Power meeting in Auckland this week. The answer to his constituent’s question, he told his audience, was no, Labour was not in favour of people receiving the sickness benefit when they were fit for work. Fairness was a core feature of the social contract. People who needed assistance should get it, but once they were back on their own feet they should pull their weight and contribute to society.

Regrettably, that was the beginning and end of the lesson.

Mr Shearer said the government’s role was to ensure the transition from to work occurred through upskilling, educating and giving a “nudge” to those not honouring their side of the bargain. But he did not say how he proposed to persuade the sickness beneficiary to descend from his roof and seek paid employment.

Given that the last Labour government had nine years to upskill, educate and nudge, the public could be forgiven for assuming that under Mr Shearer Labour has nothing new to offer.

That is the real issue. I’ve got no problems with the story as an example of what shouldn’t be tolerated, and think the Labour activists condemning it are being rather precious.

The real issue is that Shearer said he was against this happening, but his party has opposed policies to prevent it – and offers nothing new.

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21 Responses to “Dom Post on the sickness beneficiary”

  1. orewa1 (410 comments) says:

    “The real issue is that Shearer said he was against this happening, but his party has opposed policies to prevent it – and offers nothing new.”

    Exactly.

    Because Labour has torn itself apart trying to be all things to all minorities, and ended up satisfying none of them. Result – David Shearer cannot say anything of consequence without offending one faction or other.

    Unless Shearer can actually lead – which means uniting all stakeholders around a common policy platform – he should step aside in favour of someone who can. If such a person exists.

    Otherwise, perhaps the uneasy coalition that comprises “Labour” as we have come to know it, has passed its political use-by date.

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  2. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    As I have said before, education and re-training is exactly what needs to happen.

    No one on a benefit should be do nothing.

    I think these are some solid policy principles:

    1. Every New Zealander is entitled to a benefit should they be in the unfortunate position of being unemployed.
    2. While receiving a benefit, they will have weekly meetings with a case manager (I admit this will be easier once unemployment falls).
    3. The unemployed person and case manager must have a plan that involves re-training or further education. Sending in the odd CV or attending a job interview once a month is not enough.
    4. If they get a job while re-training or undertaking further education, that’s great, but doing nothing is not an option.

    I believe this policy will work because education is the great leveller, whether it be a tertiary course or on the job training. It also gets people’s brains moving. Sitting around the house all day demotivates people.

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  3. alex (304 comments) says:

    Said beneficiary may have had mental health issues, rather than physical health issues. Painting a roof and doing something productive would seem perfectly fine in that case.

    I think the real problem here is the idea that benes give absolutely nothing back. The vast majority of people on sickness/unemployed benefit do some sort of community work, help out with childcare in their family, volunteer, or simply spend their days looking for a job.

    Think about it, if you were unemployed, what would you do? Sit around bone idle or get of your ass and do something productive? It is a tiny minority of benes that really give nothing back.

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  4. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    I strongly believe they MUST have a plan involving education and/or re-training.

    There is plenty of time outside of normal work or study hours to prepare CVs and apply for jobs.

    Beneficiaries working one on one with case managers to have a clearly defined plan.

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  5. Reid (16,473 comments) says:

    but his party has opposed policies to prevent it – and offers nothing new.

    Can the taxpayers of NZ execute a citizen’s arrest on the entire Liarbore caucus and if not, why not?

    As I have said before, education and re-training is exactly what needs to happen.

    Exactly, we should take one or two beneficiaries from each local area and hang them, on telly, as an example to others. Good idea Hamnida. I’m surprised you came up with it, but I approve.

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  6. calendar girl (1,239 comments) says:

    “I believe this policy will work because education is the great leveller, whether it be a tertiary course or on the job training. It also gets people’s brains moving.”

    You’re quite right, of course. But only when the individual is motivated personally to improve his or her skills (and skills that are work-relevant).

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  7. seanmaitland (501 comments) says:

    @alex – what a load of unsubstantiated nonsense. I can guarantee you that the majority of “bene’s” don’t give back to their community – I live in South Auckland and see literally hundreds of them everyday down at Papakura shops and walking around the streets intimidating people. In the last 18 months I have caught on ten different occasions these clowns scoping out my house for burglaries – all of them polynesian I might add – hiding in the bushes, in my back yard, pretending to be courier drivers etc – is that how they give back to their community?

    Besides that, someone with mental problems that were bad enough to not work, would be highly unlikely to be capable of organizing and painting their roof.

    Too many apologies Alex.

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  8. Komata (1,191 comments) says:

    There is another aspect of this, briefly alluded to by Hmnda: The role of WINZ in this. Sadly, WINZ staf in many cases come across as arrogant, rude, and dis-interested – they have quota’s to fill and they intend to fill them OR ELSE!!The ‘Or Else’ being that ‘if you don’t co-operate’ we will ‘turn off the tap’ and stop your benefit – now!!. That you are not the right person for the job is irrelevant or are incapable of actually doing it anyway is irrelevant – ‘you simply aren’t trying’. Been there, had that happen. and with no means of protest what can be done? sadly, very little. Power and abuse comes in many different forms. . .

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  9. markm (114 comments) says:

    Alex

    You fall into the trap of to many these days.
    you say the majority of benes do community work and family childcare.
    Family childcare isn’t community work , its an individual responsibility , that should have nothing to do with the taxpaying community.

    One of the reasons we have so much child abuse is the widespread belief that it is the taxpayers role to pay for and bring up your own children.
    It isn’t.

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  10. Viking2 (11,471 comments) says:

    I’m always bemused by the “get and education, get a good Job” mantra that so many uneducated expouse on Kiwiblog.

    Here’s why. The world is full of accademically educated unemployed. Universites and polytechs are turning out millions more each year. Millions of them but we lack skills in engineering, food science et al. We import into NZ educated people to drive taxis and prune Kiwifruit. We import goods into NZ that could be made here but it’s easy for importers like dime(not knocking dime), to import stuff than it is to back ourselves to do stuff.
    We have restrictve employment practices that create barriers to employment that make being a maker of anything not worth the coin when its easier to have it made in China. Imported in a fashion the eludes the GST and sold in markets where cash is the currency and accounting for the cash is a minor obstacle.
    We have import terms that allow product into NZ that never gets GST charges upon and therefore the consumer rips off the tax payer by avoiding the GST.
    And you all moan and grizzle that there are unemployed people.
    It seems to me that you would all rather pay higher taxes, higher interest rates caused by Govt. borrowing than have an import tax that captured all imports and encouraged Kiwi’s to buy kiwi made product that is made by Kiwi’s who currently are out of work.
    As for the education thing well here is a comment on that. Its actually bullshit driven sovialist dogma. About right for all you socilaists.

    Young, gifted and jobless
    JAMES WEIR
    Last updated 05:00 10/08/2012

    HARD WORK: A double degree or even a masters may not be enough for university students to break into their chosen fields.
    A double degree or even a masters may not be enough for university students to break into a job in their chosen fields as the job market worsens, long after the recession officially ended.

    Unemployment unexpectedly rose from 6.7 per cent to 6.8 per cent in the June quarter, with opposition politicians and union groups saying the figures were “dire” and “alarming”.

    In part, the worsening job market reflected a jump in unemployment in Canterbury, even when other indicators suggested the region was starting to perk up, economists said. The job market elswhere was improving, with jobs up 1 per cent in the quarter.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/7450046/Young-gifted-and-jobless

    Todays’ Stuff News.
    Kiwi’s gave away their rights and Soverignity when we opened our gates to the world it seems.

    All the talk about Land Taxes etc etc won’t fix this. Financial Transaction taxes will.

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  11. duggledog (1,558 comments) says:

    @Alex

    ‘It is a tiny minority of benes that really give nothing back’

    Mate you need to get a job on 7 Days that is comedy gold.

    Hamnida

    ‘As I have said before, education and re-training is exactly what needs to happen’

    I don’t get this, you mean the free education available to everyone already?

    I think the reason there are ‘no jobs’ is because nobody is going to employ someone with no quals, no work ethic, and a sullen attitude. One of the great myths spread about by people like Helen Kelly Sue Bradford et al is that most employers are bastards out to take advantage. I’d say 1 to 2% are.

    If you’re basically literate but also punctual, work reasonably hard and are pleasant to be around, employers will hang onto you, because that’s the key to success, always has been.

    The unions have been so unbelievably good at their jobs that they have driven most employers away. 4 weeks paid leave, a week’s sick pay, a week’s stats, ACC – you’d need nerves of steel

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  12. Nostalgia-NZ (5,214 comments) says:

    I’ve got a couple of suggestions>

    1/ Mark a point in time from which in additions to a family of four receiving benefits have no increase on the amount paid to them.

    2/ Rather than decrease the entitlements for a family where one goes off a work benefit and into work, leave it as it is for 2 years.

    3/ After a phasing in period reduce support for large families and use some of what is saved to increase pension and disability benefits whilst also increasing employer assistance for longer periods for taking on staff for a minimum 30 hours per week.

    4/ Look toward making as many supplements, payments and allowances universal.

    I had a disinclination to the idea of capping payments but the more I think about it – it should be introduced with a warning of a year maybe a little longer. Those that make a decision to have more children then know state support won’t happen. On the other hand large families put on a, say a five year notice, that there allowance will be brought back to that of a family of 4 will have some children approaching work age and be encouraged to get them working and bringing some in money. I’m against overnight cuts to welfare but in recent times I’ve begun to realise I’m also against seeing the ‘leaking’ going on and on along with the costs of its administration. I actually think Shearer should getting into driving something like this, might make the left and right policies look more distinct from one another. But the important thing is to change the mentality that the state should be helping an individual after they’ve reached a point of being able to help themselves.

    I think throwing around the idea that education will be an incentive is misguided, knowing you’ll be swimming on your own if you don’t buckle down at school and score a good job I think would work a lot better. Nothing like reality.

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  13. UpandComer (537 comments) says:

    @ Viking2, if you look at the grads who can’t get jobs, it’s because they have PHD’s in ‘criminology’, or they are the self-entitled little pricks who Sainsbury interviewed, smelly, obnoxious and useless who are doing degrees in ‘communications’, or ‘politics’. Those are all worthless degrees, and those obnoxious little fools don’t deserve a student allowance to faff about with silly degrees.

    As for All benes give back, what a laugh. I lived with one for a very brief period who I am certain was running a brothel in the upstairs bedrooms of our flat and was a violent unhealthy thieving little prick who I would have smashed if it wasn’t for his gang associates. I lived with another one that tried to grow weed in her room and sat at home all day with the heater blasting watching TV series and buying. I lived in Gisbourne for a while, where the population of feral benes is a community joke. I know 5 kids on sickness benefits who have physical cash jobs – these aren’t all one-off anecdotes, they are representative of a really sizeable minority, and I’m glad National’s welfare policies will help the people who need and deal to the ones who don’t want it.

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  14. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    Good approach, Nostalgia, but I’d go further.
    As of date “x” – no more people receive the DPB. As of the same date, WINZ get told to **make** everyone on the DPB work, for a minimum of 10 hours per week. That’s only 2 hours per working day – ANYONE can do that.
    The jobs ARE out there – we have Fijians and Filipinos working in orchards and on dairy farms because Kiwi beneficiaries are too LAZY to work.
    As of date “x” – no more benefits to anyone under 20 years old. You either go into education or training (including apprenticeships), or you starve.
    There is ***NO EXCUSE*** for the government to be paying benefits to slack-arsed 17 and 18-year-olds.

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  15. Rightandleft (663 comments) says:

    I think the reason Labour has no actual policies to reform the sickness benefit is that from their point of view benefit fraud only eats up a very small amount of govt funding. They have other priorities and think cutting benefits will automatically lead to increased crime as the benefit frauds simply start stealing the money to continue their work-free life-style. However the recent stats from the US don’t support this argument. There welfare reform and economic recession have not increased crime at all. In fact crime stats continue to fall. A tougher policing approach has certainly helped with that though. And even if benefit fraud only eats up a small part of the budget it should still be a priority to stop it in the interest of fairness. It is a vicious cycle.

    As a teacher I see far too many students being raised by families living on benefits who plan to simply continue to do that themselves. They leave school at 16, never secure full-time work because they can’t be bothered waking up early or often can’t pass a drug test and that’s that.

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  16. Nostalgia-NZ (5,214 comments) says:

    Rightandleft

    ‘As a teacher I see far too many students being raised by families living on benefits who plan to simply continue to do that themselves. They leave school at 16, never secure full-time work because they can’t be bothered waking up early or often can’t pass a drug test and that’s that.’

    Maybe that’s where the capping idea could come in. No extra benefit for him or her when leaving school, but if they find work the overall family allowance doesn’t fall for two years. As time rationalised the support level with a family of 6 or more unable to receive more than a family of four, I think they’d want the kids to work. That seems to be the key – the message work and you’re better off, not don’t work but enlarge your family and you still get paid the same anyway.

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  17. seanmaitland (501 comments) says:

    @Viking2 – unfortunately you didn’t quote the parts of that article that stated that all the interviewees had Arts degrees.

    What do you expect when they have degrees that have no real use outside of educational institutions?

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  18. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Education and retraining are they only ways forward for any society wishing to climb the OECD ladder. Doesn’t matter if it’s beneficiary bashing in the case of Neolibs or assistance in the case of the Left. People have to up-skill if they are out of work.

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  19. Nostalgia-NZ (5,214 comments) says:

    The only way forward is for people to get off the breast milk and build their own lives.

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  20. krazykiwi (9,186 comments) says:

    Education and retraining are they only ways forward for any society wishing to climb the OECD ladder

    Our alternatively, live in a country that rejects the notion of progress being delivered by big governments and forced redistribution of wealth. No amount of individual education and retraining can save a country from the slow train wreck that is socialist ideology.

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  21. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    krazykiwi – Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, France, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Germany…. All lead OECD indicators.

    Higher taxes, higher investment in education. A more educated society keeps people employed while building for the future.

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