Dom Post on welfare reform

September 13th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Observing the wailing and teeth-gnashing that has accompanied the latest welfare reforms, a visitor could be forgiven for assuming the Government is hellbent on introducing Dickensian-era workhouses to New Zealand.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The new sanctions unveiled by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett are not an attempt to deny assistance to the children of beneficiaries, but to ensure they get it.

Exactly. Making sure they get taxpayer funded user-free ECE, making sure they attend school, making sure they do their free Wellchild checks is hardly bad for the kids.

Every child deserves a decent upbringing and the opportunity to develop to his or her full potential. Simply handing money to bad parents is no guarantee that their children will be fed, clothed or loved.

The wider Kahui clan was reportedly receiving more than $2000 a week in benefits when 3-month-old twins Chris and Cru suffered the injuries that caused their deaths. There is no reason to believe that more money would have made a difference. Similarly, four adult beneficiaries were living in the Rotorua home in which 3-year-old Nia Glassie was mortally injured. Would larger state payouts have prevented her from being stuffed in a tumble dryer, beaten and hung from a clothesline?

The left are convinced that more money is the solution to everything. It isn’t. Labour and Greens are about to vote for a bill to extend the $60 a week in-work tax credit from working parents to parents on benefits, in the belief this will cure child poverty.

Child poverty is defined as being in a household that earns less than 60% or 50% of the median income. So if the median income drops, this will actually be celebrated as bringing kids out of poverty!!!

The problem in both cases was not the level of state support, but values. A small section of society has so lost touch with the notion of right and wrong that it does not even recognise the obligation to take care of its own.

The minister’s reforms are an attempt to fix the problem by using benefit payments to remind those tempted to neglect or abuse their offspring that with rights come obligations. By any standard, the new “social obligations”, which will take effect next July, are measured, moderate and compassionate. Beneficiaries will not be penalised for failing to use services that do not exist in their areas and, before any sanctions are imposed, they will be given three opportunities to comply with the new regime. Furthermore, the minister is promising the speedy restoration of entitlements once failing parents do the right thing.

The best policies tend to use both carrot and stick. The carrot should be that these services are free, and they are good for the child and family. The sick is sadly necessary for some families.

Instead of condemning the new measures, Labour, the Greens, Plunket and beneficiary advocate groups should be applauding Mrs Bennett for having the courage to tackle a problem that decades of well-intentioned but ineffective policy-making have failed to remedy.

What I would find interesting is a clear statement from Labour on whether they will repeal the requirement?

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33 Responses to “Dom Post on welfare reform”

  1. East Wellington Superhero (1,151 comments) says:

    Russell Norman’s language in the House yesterday on this issue was interesting. He was almost enraged (he even quoted the Old Testament – hilarious from someone who surrounds himself with people who think the Bible is hogwash). Bill English’s response were good but it showed how the Greens (who in-part develop and these policies for electoral success) truly believe the state is the source of all beneficence, not families and communities.

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  2. DylanReeve (182 comments) says:

    Putting aside the ideological arguments for or against the plan there are some practical issues…

    There simply aren’t enough ECE place to make this possible. Already parents of 3-5 year-olds are faced with waiting lists. There is also the matter of cost. While it’s true that there is a state-funded 20-hours ECE plan, most ECE centres won’t accept enrolments for just those 20 hours, they require 30 hours or more. Who will pay for those extra hours?

    And while I guess it’s necessary to wield a stick to enforce this policy, it’s hard to see how a reduction of income if the policy isn’t met will help the children in any way?

    If it’s such a good idea to force children into this, then why not make it compulsory for all children? I presume it’s because that would be fought against because it’s not suitable for all situations, but when it comes to beneficiaries there is not consideration of individual suitability – do it or else.

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  3. tvb (4,318 comments) says:

    These welfare people are PAID to look after children. It is their job. The obligations they are being asked to assume are MINIMAL compared with what people are expected to do in any other job. They can get out of bed anytime they like, they do not even have to assume their children are FED before they go to school. If they do not want to assume these minimal obligations then they can be sacked. See how they like that.

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  4. garethw (205 comments) says:

    “Every child deserves a decent upbringing and the opportunity to develop to his or her full potential. ”
    Then make ECE compulsory. For “every child”. Instead it’s just been state mandated for a small percentage of society.

    I have trouble reconciling your supposed socially liberal attitude with your cheerleading for this DPF? How can you support enforcing state policy on one group of people, when a child’s education is so completely separate to the source of family income? Docking benefits when you’re not adhering to common conditions (arrest warrants, not sending a child to school when mandated) is oe thing, actively creating new state policy only for that target group so you can take away from them is absurd…

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  5. Than (448 comments) says:

    DylanReeve – Assuming that’s true, what’s the problem? The parents can go to one of the ECE centers which offer just 20 hours, apply, receive a letter saying “Sorry, no room”, and show that letter to WINZ.

    Parents who make even a modest effort will not be affected by this policy at all.

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  6. DylanReeve (182 comments) says:

    Than: If that’s the case then what’s the point? It doesn’t help anything… Why bother? Is it just a pointless “get tough” measure to satisfy the party base without any consideration for the practicality or end result? If so – who gains?

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  7. Morgy (172 comments) says:

    Seriously Dylan? I think you are missing the point of the policy. This is about making sure all children get a start. There are going to be exceptions and Paula Bennett mentioned in the house that if for a valid reason a parent can’t meet an obligation (like ECE) then there is no problem. They will however still need to do the other expectations. The opposition to this is unfortunately predictable.

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  8. Redbaiter (8,283 comments) says:

    “The carrot should be that these services are free”

    Except they are not.

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  9. fish_boy (152 comments) says:

    When it comes to Paula Bennett, i think it is time the media stopped feeding the troll. Lord, she could do with a bit of a diet.

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  10. scrubone (3,090 comments) says:

    If that’s the case then what’s the point? It doesn’t help anything… Why bother?

    Well…
    1. The Centers will be able to demonstrate how many people are being turned away to the govt, providing evidence of the urgency of more resources.
    2. The Centers will also be able to modify their intake policies. For example, they may raise the age at which kids start, so that rather than (for example) 50% of the kids getting a year, 100% of them get 6 months.

    Having said that, I oppose the ECE part of this policy. It should not be compulsary to send your kid to early childhood “education”. Unfortunatly it seems that some kids group up in homes where entering school would be completely foreign and for these children I have no doubt it helps a great deal when they finally enter school.

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  11. Than (448 comments) says:

    DylanReeves – For those parents who don’t make even a modest effort, obviously.

    If the parents are trying, they won’t be punished for circumstances beyond their control. It is the parents who don’t even try that will be hit by this policy.

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  12. rouppe (962 comments) says:

    Making sure they get taxpayer funded user-free ECE

    Though to be fair, when we had our son in ECE, “20 hours free ECE” didn’t give us 20 hours at no-cost from the provider. Maybe from a kindergarten or kohanga reo, but definitely not ECE

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  13. scrubone (3,090 comments) says:

    Labour and Greens are about to vote for a bill to extend the $60 a week in-work tax credit from working parents to parents on benefits, in the belief this will cure child poverty.

    One does wonder how their supporters feel, being told that $60 will cure the problem when the previous $200 did not. Were I a supporter of the Green party and they told me this, I’d think they’re treating me like I’m an idiot.

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  14. scrubone (3,090 comments) says:

    If the parents are trying, they won’t be punished for circumstances beyond their control. It is the parents who don’t even try that will be hit by this policy.

    WINZ usually ends up watering down these things to varying extent on actual implementation. So if you do try they’ll probably be happy with that and move onto those who didn’t even do that.

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  15. Cunningham (836 comments) says:

    fish_boy nice personal jibe on Bennett there fish boy. Pretty typical from the left and the reason Labour are not in power. By all means continue down that path though as you obviously don’t have any other way to make your point.

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  16. Pete George (23,426 comments) says:

    A survey that shows 1 in 3 Far North kids are going to school hungry misses a question that should be obvious. Why change social policy when people should be able to change social habits?

    The Far North is mainly rural with very high unemployment. Land, time, but not enough food?

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  17. Dazzaman (1,134 comments) says:

    Sure to be as much a failure as the nanny state policies of the previous Labour govt…those who are shit parents will continue to be so. Those who are not shit parents will probably do those things aside from the silly & costly to implement ECE provision either grudgingly, or not.

    If anything, it’s probably even more of a nanny state move than anything that the left have brought in…that’s not surprising seeing National are actually to the left anyway.

    The underlying cause of shit parenting is a lack of a moral compass, chiefly. With the prevailing secular humanism of our society creating an ever increasing class of amoral trash, don’t be surprised to see the passive & aggressive abuse of kids increasing irrespective of these band aid “solutions”.

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  18. Bob R (1,358 comments) says:

    ***Similarly, four adult beneficiaries were living in the Rotorua home in which 3-year-old Nia Glassie was mortally injured.***

    Yes, but these measures will not stop those problems. It’s only when NZ gets serious about making contraception a condition of welfare that those underclass issues will stop increasing.

    The moral argument is interesting – Eric Crampton had a good post on this:

    “Receipt of various benefits already comes with a laundry list of conditions. If you’re getting the accommodation supplement, you have to report family income. That gives some people incentive either to hide that they’re living with their partner or, worse, to have one partner leave. Here’s one list of the requirements around disclosing to Work and Income whether you’re “in a relationship for income assistance purposes”. Is it coercive that, if you care about being truthful, you may be forced (in the (5) sense) to avoid entering into a relationship? Whatever the costs of coercion in those cases, they seem outweighed by the ability better to target benefits to those most in need.

    I have a hard time seeing how adding contraception as condition of receipt of benefit is different in kind from the other forms of coercion that already surround receipt of welfare payments. People still choose whether to accept the bundle of restrictions and payments. The exchange fails to be Euvoluntary as (5) is definitely violated. But (5) is pretty likely to be violated if any conditions are attached to welfare receipt.”

    http://offsettingbehaviour.blogspot.co.nz/2012/08/coercion-everywhere-welfare-edition.html

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  19. Morgy (172 comments) says:

    Fish-Boy; Dick!

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  20. Redbaiter (8,283 comments) says:

    “The underlying cause of shit parenting is a lack of a moral compass, chiefly. With the prevailing secular humanism of our society creating an ever increasing class of amoral trash, don’t be surprised to see the passive & aggressive abuse of kids increasing irrespective of these band aid “solutions”.”

    Well said.

    You’re on to it.

    I wonder just how much destruction the Progressives will bring upon us until they admit their mistakes?

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  21. greenjacket (451 comments) says:

    “What I would find interesting is a clear statement from Labour”

    Somewhat wishful thinking if it is from ummmm ahhhh you know David Shearer.

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  22. Maaik (33 comments) says:

    Fish-boy, you are amazing.

    Did you think you were being funny? You were not.

    Did you think you were making some subtle political point? Way too subtle for us mere mortals.

    Did you think you were convincing me to change my vote? Massive fail.

    I would not be seen in your company for love or money. I would not cross the road to piss on you if you were on fire.

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  23. lastmanstanding (1,278 comments) says:

    Now doubt Jacinda White Teeth will be screaming blue murder that it takes away the rights of people.

    Like the right to abuse your kids eh Jacinda White Teeth.

    Like the right to take money off good hard working citizens and then not spend it looking after your kids eh Jacinda White Teeth.

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  24. seabreezeent (31 comments) says:

    This policy has not been thought through properly, but then we should to be getting used to that by now, it seems to be the way National rolls.

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  25. backster (2,140 comments) says:

    This is why the reforms are needed http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/columnists/rosemary-mcleod/7665551/Gang-kids-at-risk-of-going-hungry

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  26. scrubone (3,090 comments) says:

    This policy has not been thought through properly, but then we should to be getting used to that by now, it seems to be the way National rolls.

    You’re new to this whole “watching government” thing, aren’t you?

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  27. seabreezeent (31 comments) says:

    Oh, so poorly thought out policy is normal, who would da thunk.

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  28. Reid (16,195 comments) says:

    Labour and Greens are about to vote for a bill to extend the $60 a week in-work tax credit from working parents to parents on benefits, in the belief this will cure child poverty.

    Liarbore doesn’t believe it, the Gweens do because they’re all totally mental. Liarbore knows it doesn’t work, they’ve got too much experience. Liarbore are doing it so they can perpetuate the myth that they weally weally care when what they really do is keep their base in a state of dependency. And considering that Liarbore’s version of golden handcuffs is 60 bucks a week, you can see what a bunch of miserly selfish sourpuss scumbags Liarbore really are.

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  29. krazykiwi (9,189 comments) says:

    The left are convinced that more money is the solution to everything

    Welfare is the left’s weapon for disempowering the wealthy, and enslaving the poor. Three decades of guilt-tripping hard working NZers with this statist ideology is ensuring we slide into sleepy pacific irrelevance. Key is not reversing the process.

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  30. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    The left are convinced that more money is the solution to everything

    And the right doesn’t????

    How about handing back those tax cuts then!

    Even the above statement copied from DPF’s post is a gross misrepresentation of the objections to this policy. The goal is laudatory, but what proof is there that the policy will be in any way effective as all a mother will need to do when her benefit is cut is roll up at the WINZ counter with her starving kid? In fact, maybe she could lay a complaint with the police over the government withholding the necessities of life that by our oft-quoted social contract, whether implied or explicit, said government is duty bound to provide.

    Regarding Bennett, It’s always a shame to see a member of a marginalised group join forces with the marginalizers and enact policies even worse than could be done if a white person was in charge. Key should be smiling like a cheshire cat at the enthusiasm Bennett brings to the task of even further entrenching privilege.

    If any proof was needed that turkeys do indeed vote for an early Xmas, the NZ electorate is that’s needed!

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  31. bhudson (4,736 comments) says:

    It’s always a shame to see a member of a marginalised group join forces with the marginalizers…

    Luc, that language gives complete lie to your “goal is laudatory”, ‘I want the same outcomes as you’ rubbish.

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  32. UpandComer (528 comments) says:

    Good to see the Fish boy and his mates floundering on this issue, because nothing they tried ever worked and NZ’s current welfare system is a disgrace.

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  33. seanmaitland (488 comments) says:

    Luc Hansen trotting out the old straw man arguments again – if tax cuts end up resulting in more money spent on children then of course increasing a benefit would as well eh?

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