Meet the Bludgers

Colin Espiner reports in The Press:

Information obtained by The Press shows Marcia Harris and her husband, former gang leader Darryl Harris, have claimed unemployment and sickness benefits continuously since 1984.

25 years without working.

They are one of about 300 couples who draw about $1000 a week in benefits from the taxpayer and are the subjects of a government audit.

So why work if you can get taxpayers to give you $1,000 a week?

They have four children, three of whom are also drawing benefits.

What a surprise! What I can’t work out is how they get $1,000 a week, if at most they have one dependent child.

In addition, they have received $30,000 in special-needs grants since 2000, including $16,000 in the past two years.

Life must be tough on $1,000 a week.

Among the successful applications were grants to put new tyres on the couple’s 2007 silver Chrysler saloon and to fence a swimming pool at one of several properties the family owns in Christchurch.

Well the silver Chrysler must look its best, so of course the taxpayer should pay for new tyres. And if you own multiple properties, then again the taxpayer is who should pay for fencing the swimming pool.

Recent efforts to cancel Darryl Harris’ sickness benefit failed after he obtained a medical opinion stating he was addicted to cannabis.

Sadly, he probably is. But people can beat addictions – and I don’t see a lot of incentives for him to do so.

The opinion was from one of Work and Income’s “designated doctors” after the agency appealed against a medical opinion that Harris was suffering from “stress and anxiety” over being work-tested.

Oh the poor baby. He hasn’t had to work for 25 years, but the stress of being work-tested in itself made him so stressed out he was not able to work.

This year Marcia Harris was ordered to repay some benefits granted by Work and Income, including one to pay for her car to be released after being impounded. She was driving without a licence at the time.

Well that is hardly her fault. Society is to blame, so only fair us taxpayers pay.

Work and Income paid for the family to spend 10 nights at a Christchurch hotel, the Towers on the Park, in 2007 after their Islington home burnt down, a review of the family’s case found.

I am sure the burning down was a freak of nature, and had nothing to do with gangs. Hopefully the Towers on the Park was adequate for them It is only 4.5 stars and they may have suffered from it not being a five star hotel.

Since then the family has been transferred to a special “remote monitoring” unit. The unit deals with Work and Income clients deemed too dangerous for face-to-face meetings with staff.

If they are too dangerous to meet with staff, then maybe they are too dangerous to receive $1,000 a week?

Bennett said she planned to introduce pledges made by National during last year’s election campaign but shelved this year because of the recession.

They include work-testing for domestic purpose beneficiaries whose youngest child has turned six, compulsory budgeting advice sessions for beneficiaries who claim frequent grants, and part-time work obligations for some sickness and invalid beneficiaries.

The Government plans to suspend or reduce benefits for those who refuse to comply with requests to attend work interviews or take up work opportunities.

Can’t happen quickly enough.

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