Dom Post on Welfare

The Dom Post editorial:

If any more evidence was needed that New Zealand’s creaking welfare system requires major reform, it was the news that gospel singer Alipate Liava’a drew the sickness benefit while training for a boxing match.

Mr Liava’a apparently has a form of tennis elbow that prevents him working yet, miraculously, it did not stop him going toe-to-toe with All Black giant Sonny Bill Williams.

The elbow was the latest in a run of poor health for Mr Liava’a, who was previously on the sickness benefit because of a problem with his voice. He says he would have told Work and Income about his fight with Williams, but he was too busy with his music and training I thto find the time.

Those who work for a living and whose taxes fund the $7.6 billion a year welfare bill will rightly be flabbergasted. It is difficult to decide which is worse – that Mr Liava’a saw nothing wrong with claiming a benefit intended for those too ill to work while preparing to take on a heavy-set professional athlete, or that his doctor honestly believed a dodgy elbow made him too infirm to get a job.

The doctor has some questions to answer also.

Unfortunately, it will give ammunition to those who hold the erroneous view that all beneficiaries are hopeless bludgers. That is not true. Many are genuinely too ill to work, and the mark of a civilised and compassionate society is how well they are supported.

It would be nice to do more for those who are genuinely not able to do any work at all.

Other recommendations are well worth considering, however. They include increasing the proportion of beneficiaries required to seek work from about a third now to more than three-quarters and cutting benefits for those who refuse to comply. Requiring solo parents to ensure their children attend school and have regular health checks, ensuring beneficiaries under 18 years old have a degree of adult supervision, and tying benefits for those with drug and alcohol problems to attendance at treatment programmes also have obvious merit.

Merit, apart from for those who gain politically from having as high a proportion as possible reliant on state support.

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