Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Kerre Woodham: Act's welfare policy is the kind of hardline stuff many of us want

According to Act, drug addicts will face the prospect of losing their benefit if they refuse treatment or don't make more effort to find work. Act also wants to reduce the current number of 4000 people who receive the supported living payment because of stress.

70 percent of them have been receiving that payment for more than five years. ACT argues stress is a condition that can be treated over time, not a permanent incapacity.

Act also says 4100 people receive a benefit because they're addicted to drugs, and that's costing taxpayers $76 million a year.

About 2700 of them are on the job seeker benefit, almost 30 percent of them have received that for more than six years.

David Seymour says someone who demonstrates no intention of, or motivation to, address their incapacity and become independent may find themselves ineligible for a benefit.

So when I heard that, I thought that's the kind of hardline stuff many of us want. In fact, I may have railed about that in the past - just how frustrating it is that you've got so many jobs are begging, you have job seeker expos where people can turn up, but most of the people who turn up wouldn't be able to get the job because they have drugs in their system.

They would fail any kind of drug testing and it’s infuriating and it's frustrating. And now finally, we've got someone who's got a realistic chance of getting into a role of decision making and now my trembling, wobbly lefty self is starting to manifest itself going but these people are not well, you know, they're addicts.

It's unfair. You know, I don't think once you're in the grip of that kind of addiction, you're capable of making rational choices.

We heard from a couple of former drug addicts on Friday when we were talking about shoplifting and they said they were shoplifters because they spend all their benefit on drugs. That was the priority.

One of the women said there was plenty in the benefit, absolutely you could live on the benefit if you live a relatively frugal life, but they spent the benefit on the drugs and then they stole the necessities they required food, personal toiletries and the like. Everything they had went on drugs. 

David Seymour: We need to ask tough questions about our welfare system

So if they're not getting money legitimately, they will do what they have to do to get drugs. And that will probably mean stealing more.

And where are these mythical drug and alcohol dependency counsellors? So many people we've heard from who are trying to get their children or their loved one's psychological counselling. Just can't get it.

Counsellors themselves are frustrated that they can't offer counselling this and you happen to be Maori, Pacifica or young.

I don't know much about stress and how that might incapacitate you or anxiety. But the one thing I know is do people really want to move on a benefit? I don't think so.

I don't think there are many people who would choose that as a lifestyle. Some sure, augmented by a but little light criminal activity on the side, but I think for many people it's an existence. It's not a living. You exist and barely.

If there are huge drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinics that are just begging for people to come in and be treated successfully, and drug addicts aren't making the most of it? Well, fine. But I don't think there are.

You can go private and that costs an absolute fortune. For anyone who has somebody who they love who's been in the thrall of addiction, is it going to work cutting off the benefit?

And just say get treated, get well, or you're on your own. I'm not entirely sure. I am no expert at all, but I would love to hear from people who are and people who have been there, done that.

Kerre McIvor, is a journalist, radio presenter, author and columnist. Currently hosts the Kerre Woodham mornings show on Newstalk ZB - where this article was sourced

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Completely agree with Seymour who stresses that this policy is not punitive - rather constructive. As one who has the alcoholic gene in my Scottish descent family, I have witnessed the terrible sadness of helpless addiction. One or two have broken the addiction with huge effort - and others have lived sadly deprived lives - and most of us can just take it or leave it. It is in no way a kindness to refrain from helping addicts - just paying them to wallow in misery. This is a priority for the country to set up professional - and amateur centres of help.