Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Beneficiary bashing National costs welfare...

Opposition parties say the Government's moves to price the future cost of benefits is a cynical attempt to drive a further wedge between working New Zealand and families without work.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett will today disclose the first valuation of the Government's future liability for benefits.
Calculations by the Social Development Ministry put the total lifetime cost of main beneficiaries at $44.7 billion at March last year - or $134,638 for each beneficiary.
Greens welfare spokeswoman Metiria Turei today said such a the report was designed to highlight only the most extreme costs of welfare.
"The Government is very keen to stigmatise beneficiaries as much as possible."
The introduction of a punitive approach to welfare was solely about National getting votes, she said.
"They have no compassion for the families that they are attacking in the process. Families like those in Christchurch that lost work during the earthquake or the Kawerau families that are losing work at the paper mill have done nothing to deserve this kind of treatment.
"The Government is intentionally driving a wedge between working New Zealanders and families without work for no advantage to New Zealand or to those families."
Turei said the majority of 50,000 people on the unemployment benefit would be off welfare within 12 months.
Labour's welfare spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern today said most of the almost 97,000 people on the domestic purposes benefit would be off government assistance within four years.
The Government had taken into account the average length of time people remained on various benefit categories. "That's why it's such an inaccurate thing to try to do. They've chosen a snapshot in time, at a pretty bad time."
Ardern questioned the purpose of putting a value on future benefits.
"Is it to tell us we need more jobs? We absolutely know that. To tell us there is a particular group which is at high risk that cost us more? We can already predict that and should already be addressing that."
The Government was costing what was "politically convenient", she said.
"The cost of superannuation is significant but the Government is not interested in addressing the sustainability of that system."
Prime Minister John Key has ruled out raising the age of eligibility for superannuation despite economists and almost every other political party agreeing the rising cost is unaffordable.
Both Labour and the Greens are concerned about new "social obligations" announced yesterday which require beneficiaries to send their children to school or early childhood education centres, enrol them with a doctor and complete basic health checks, or face having their benefits cut.
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The Greens say the same obligations should apply to others receiving government assistance such as Working For Families and Labour says it will harm children.
However, Bennett said the changes would stop vulnerable children missing out on vital education and health services.
"These obligations are reasonable and achievable and they reflect the expectations most New Zealanders have of parents, this is a positive move for vulnerable families.”
Last week Bennett announced benefit payments would be stopped to beneficiaries who were subject to arrest warrants and from next July beneficiaries will also be penalised if they refuse to apply for drug-tested jobs.
National's welfare reforms are expected to save the Government up to $1b over four years. The Government spends about $7.6b on welfare payments a year.
Acknowledgements: - © Fairfax NZ News



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