Thursday, September 29, 2022

Kate Hawkesby: There is a disturbing entrenchment happening in regard to benefits


A landlord wrote to me the other day saying how many more tenants these days are applying for rentals, and on the application form are putting under proof of income, ‘WINZ’.

Her point was, since when was a WINZ benefit, which is supposed to be a short term solution for people in difficult circumstances, since when has that become an income?

It’s supposed to be a benefit, which you’re on for a short time. But she was saying how many single mums with only one or two kids are going into four bedroom homes courtesy of a government grant or benefit, and that perhaps the real housing crisis lies in the fact too many rentals are being subsidised by government benefits, which allow small no income families to go into large homes that they actually don’t need.

And then we hear about the solo dad who said the other day that WINZ actually don’t want to help you get off the benefit.

A “Bay of Plenty father with four kids aged four to 10 told Newshub he started looking for part-time work a few months ago…” He has.. “a background in fencing, shearing and forestry and applied for two part-time roles. However, the jobs required equipment so he applied to WINZ for the Transition to Work grant to buy the gear he needed… a chainsaw, hammer, gumboots..” etc that he’d need to do the work.

“But he said he was rejected because he didn't meet the requirements of needing to work 30 hours or more a week,” it was reported. He said the message he got from WINZ through this experience was that it’s easier to just give up and stay on a benefit.

He said there’s no incentive to really help people into work. Worse still, he didn’t hear from WINZ for months he said, until Newshub contacted them and isn’t that too often the case?

Unless a journalist rings up or the issue gets into the media, there’s no action on anything. It shouldn’t be that way. Part of WINZ’s role is to help people get into work with support grants for things like equipment if needed. And yet this solo Dad was left floundering and without support. He said WINZ should take a “look in the mirror at their policies and see if they're actually helping Kiwis get off the benefit.”

National agrees there are too many roadblocks to getting people off benefits, it says Labour has allowed ‘benefit dependency to increase at a time businesses are desperate for staff.’

Even the Greens recognised it's not helpful if agencies like WINZ aren’t enabling people to get off benefits and ‘meet their aspirations’.

Look, it’s so refreshing to hear of people wanting to get off a benefit, and having aspirations, that it pains me that WINZ may be standing in the way of this.

Surely the system can be flexible enough and bold enough to recognise decent aspiration and back it?

How else do we break the back of benefit dependency, if those in the very agencies dishing it out aren’t prepared to help people stand on their own two feet and come off it?

There is a disturbing entrenchment happening in regard to attitudes to benefits and that is that it’s just easier to give people a hand out, when the focus really should be on giving people a hand up.

Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.

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