I’m no fan of Labour’s desire to remove some or all sanctions against benefit fraud. But some of the changes announced by Sepuloni seem reasonable and welcome. Let’s take them in turn:
1. Security guards at MSD offices are no longer required to check people’s names off a list or to ask for ID and they are no longer dressed in security uniforms. What they will do now is welcome people warmly and ensure people feel safe coming in for support
Sounds good. Uniformed guards sounds very off putting.
2. All MSD offices now have the new MSD client commitment up in their offices – in English, Maori and sign language (other languages are also provided).
I presume some service level obligations. Fine.
3. Water is now available
Amazed this was not the case in the past,
4. Where possible accessible toilets are being made available (with baby changing tables)
Baby changing tables are a great idea. Especially many clients will be parents.
5. The new layout (being piloted at 4 new sites initially) has more private spaces, a kids play area, more clearly marked areas
Also a good idea. Kids get bored.
6. An eligibility guide has been launched and is now available online nation wide and
Understanding eligibility is good. All too often media report families saying they can’t make ends meet, and it transpires they could be getting more support.
7. Today we were able to report that as a consequence of changes I asked for a month ago that led to manual benefit sanctions and cancellations requiring an authorised 2nd person to approve the decision, we have seen a daily reduction of 23% in actual manual benefit sanctions and cancellations.
A 2nd staffer to approve seems sensible. But important to remember that there are responsibilities with welfare, and sanctions are the only way you can enforce those responsibilities such as actually trying to get a job.
But overall these changes actually look quite positive.