Friday, October 14, 2011

Lindsay Mitchell: ACT policy priorities - welfare missing again

The Nelson Mail reports on a meeting held by Don Brash:

"If National needs a scapegoat, if you like, we could be that scapegoat," he said. The main priorities were to cut government spending, reform the Resource Management Act, restore a youth minimum wage and raise the age of eligibility for superannuation.

No problem with those but it's so disappointing to again see ACT failing to prioritise welfare.
Yesterday these policies appeared on-line:
ACT will continue to push for major welfare reform. A Party Vote for ACT is a vote to:
• Ensure that there is strong, adequate support for the genuinely needy;
• Re-introduce a youth training rate or minimum wage;
• Introduce obligations for sole parent beneficiaries to ensure their children are properly cared for including taking budgeting instruction and meeting regular health checks;
• Introduce sanctions – such as suspension of the unemployment benefit and mandatory work-for-the-dole – in cases where reasonable offers of employment are declined;
• Require mandatory drug rehabilitation or loss of benefit for unemployed beneficiaries who fail work tests because of drug or substance addiction;
• Introduce income management and the requirement to live with a responsible adult for parents under the age of 18;
• Have independent, government-approved gatekeeping and assessment of applicants for the sickness and invalids benefit, and six monthly reassessment of sickness beneficiaries;
• Outsource all employment placement activities to private sector providers and foster a competitive market for sickness, invalid and employment insurance;
• Encourage practical Maori-focused solutions, including Whanau Ora, to lift Maori out of poverty and benefit dependency;
• Introduce a hotline (like Crimestoppers) to report benefit fraud;
• Cut welfare payments to middle and upper income earners through reform of Working for Families.
Some good stuff. Some not so good. For instance I don't think whanau ora is about reducing Maori benefit dependency. I think it's about teaching Maori to be better parents. Different things. Not sure about work-for-the-dole although I understand why the WWG recommended a programme. Perhaps PD services could be extended. Cutting WFF (which is only a return to pre-2005 conditions) is absolutely the right move. ACT will be the only party proposing that. Things like budgeting courses and rehab are already used - just not mandatory. Excepting (I think) that if a beneficiary applies for extra assistance multiple times they must accept budgeting advice. But I would have to verify that. It was National Party policy 2008.

Trouble is, when you focus on and set up conditions for receipt of a benefit you are actually sanctioning the receipt. And the very receipt, for perfectly capable people, is wrong.

So what is missing?

The single-most important policy required is time-limits. The single-most important message is, welfare is no longer a way of life. It certainly isn't an option for raising children. We need a sea-change in thinking. These policies aren't going to achieve that.


Anonymous said...

What's missing from ACT is ACT MPs. All gone and replaced with National Party dinosaurs.

R Cressy said...

I don't normally respond to anonymous comments but you are right.

ACT has accumulated all the angry old has beens from National. It is nothing more than a subsidiary of national that sells ideas to people left behind by the changing times.

Look at that list above and see where the ideas of freedom fit in. I see gate keepers, drug testing, sanctions and crimestopper (kind of like staziland).

This is control not freedom, freedom to obey is not freedom.

I can't understand why the party that should believe in science, innovation and progress can be stuck in such a hole and instead of inspiring the young and gathering the radical thinkers end up with John Banks and Don Nicolson.

Time to revisit Milton Friedman oust those who can't understand freedom and restart the party.

Anonymous said...

I agree that for fit healthy people welfare should not be a way of life. They should work for a living like most of us. But if they are to work then the work must be there. If they don't own a car then the public transport must
be there so that they can actually get to work

Is any country doing this properly?
Denis McCarthy

Anonymous said...

You are not correct in saying "must accept budgeting advice" - I can assure you that my experience has been that the beneficiary seeking a third instance of special assistance must SEEK budgeting advice. So they make an appointment to see a budget adviser, then smartly back to the case manager, who approves the assistance on that basis. Then, of course, most of them don't bother to go to the budgeting appointment - why would they bother? The few that do attend show no interest in managing their money efficiently - why should they when there is more to be had for the asking! What they need is a system which says, no, you do not deserve even more help from the taxpayer. Sort it out yourself. Should a beneficiary have a car, church donations, life insurance, Sky tv, etc., all paid in effect by the taxpayer? No, those items should be struck from their budget, no exceptions. And no additional assistance when extra children are produced by those who cannot afford them.