Monday, February 16, 2015

Lindsay Mitchell: 'War on the poor'?

The weekend's Auckland protesters are styling their latest slogan after UK counterparts. The UK Labour Party officially launched a 'stop the war on the poor' campaign last year.

It's a powerful, catchy rallying-cry but what is this 'war'?

Sue Bradford talked on TV this morning about "ruthless" housing policies.

These would be:
  • increase the number of social houses provided by either Housing New Zealand or other providers
  • ensure that those houses better meet the needs of tenants
  • deliver Government assistance in a way that stimulates housing supply
  • help more New Zealanders into housing independence when they are capable of making that transition.

It is certain that some people are finding they have to jump through more hoops to continue to receive a benefit as a result of welfare reforms but requirements like attending parenting or budgeting  courses aren't unreasonable. The sanctioning regime was introduced to create consequences for failing to try and find work but it was introduced under the last Labour government which also officially recognised that work was the best way out of poverty.

In a Listener column last year I described some of the measures taken to address child poverty:

Many other practical developments over the past few years have targeted poor children. Insulation of over 200,000 homes; increased access to GPs; an intensive campaign to reduce rheumatic fever; boosted budgeting advisory services; low cost procurement of household essentials like washing machines; low interest loans to combat loan sharks; partnering with charities providing food and clothing to poor children; home visitation programmes like Early Start; extended income-related rents to non-government social housing; and Whanau Ora, to mention some.

'War on the poor'?

When I listen to Paula Bennett speak I believe that welfare and other reforms - especially those affecting young people and children - were based on genuine, compassionate and aspirational sentiment.

Protesters calling them 'war on the poor' is baseless and the "filthy Tory" rhetoric does nothing to persuade middle NZ to  their cause. In fact it probably does the opposite.


paul scott said...

Yes Lindsay. One thing is that a family without can not live on welfare, there is just not enough money. So they work under the table because the tax system forces them to do that. WINZ looks away. I have figures to show that just running my home here costs $350 a week. Thats before I eat. The war on the poor is just another slogan from nutcase people like Bradbury and Bradford. The top earners pay the most tax by far. Wouldn't it be good if we lived in a perfect world

Peter said...

'War on the poor' should be changed to 'war on the poor parent'. Time to take away the 'privileges' that these people have. Ensure that the poverty stricken children are catered for NOT the greed of their parents. Welfare in kind is more appropriate. Vouchers for providing HEALTHY food and suitable clothing. If the parents can't do it; then give it to churches, schools and other agencies who can. Increases in welfare spending at present are only increases to the profits of the drug lords.
Housing also needs to be looked at in a different light. Rather than the state house with a section for parking cars and dumping junk; time to look at Pacifika and see how they live. Open style housing more akin to the huts and fales they have in their own culture. Communal kitchens and laundrys where the facilities are shared and can be used in a sociable way.
Definitely time for a rethink outside the box.