Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Kerre Woodham: How are the benefit sanctions cruel?

The criticisms have come thick and fast in the wake of the coalition government's announcement that there would be sanctions applied to job seekers who choose not to actively look for work, despite help and support that is supposed to be coming from MSD officials. If after all that help and support you, choose not to take a job, then sanctions will apply.

I'm starting to know what you mean when you say the media is biased. All of the images shown on all of the mainstream media show an aggressive looking Luxon laying down the law, and emotive headlines from the Greens and the like, talking about the cruelty of it all.

Minister for Social Development Louise Upston says she has written to the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development to make this government’s view clear that they want to see all obligations and sanctions applied. If job seekers fail to attend job interviews, to complete their pre-employment tasks, or to take work that is available, then there needs to be consequences and that will come in the form of sanctions.

She also announced that from June, the ministry will begin work check-ins for job seekers who have been on benefits for six months, particularly young people. These check-ins, she said, will make sure job seeker beneficiaries are taking appropriate steps to find employment and are receiving the right help. They reckon the checks will capture about 2500 mainly younger people per month.

Now the former social development minister Carmel Sepuloni, says people deserve to be supported into meaningful long-term employment, and sanctions will not do this. She says this government is quickly building a legacy of cruelty. Instead of supporting people to provide for themselves and their whanau, this government has actively sought to push people further and further into poverty.

How? How are they doing that? By asking you to work if you can? To offer you help and assistance to get work? How is that cruel? I would argue allowing people to stay on benefits when they have the ability to work as far more cruel. And if the taxpayer is funding a benefit for a person and their family, that person is not providing for themselves in their whanau. They are state dependent. That's not being self-sufficient. That's not self-supporting. That's not having choices.

And okay, if the sanctions that National are proposing don't encourage people to seek long term employment, which of Labour's policies did? How did Labour help these young people find meaningful work? The stats under the previous government are pretty damning.

Stats New Zealand released numbers yesterday and showed the number of youth not in employment, not in education, and not in training rose by 3000 people over the December quarter. I mean one is bad enough, but 3000 in one quarter? The rate for young women also increased to 14%, up from 12.5%.

Young people are disproportionately impacted by tightening economic conditions. It's worrying that 40,000 people under the age of 25 are currently on a job seeker benefit. That is an increase of 66 per cent compared to six years ago, at a time when employers have been screaming out for someone, anyone.

40,000 people under the age of 25 on a job seeker benefit, an increase of 66% compared to six years ago! I would argue that's the cruelty. Not the suggestion that sanctions will apply, but only if you fail to do the most basic requirements of finding a job. Former WINZ CEO Christine Rankin agrees. She says it is absolutely no fun on a benefit.

“Being on a benefit is just poverty, you know, that's your future. You rot on a benefit. This government is being responsible. This is a courageous policy and you know it's taxpayers money and for beneficiaries to be on this for 13 years is an absolute disgrace, and it is a long standing Labour view that they have a right to be on benefit and not work if it's a basic job, you've got to find something big and paying very well before they'll push it ... It's supposed to be a fill in where people survive while they take the steps to a better life. If they're on there for a very long period of time, there's no way they could survive. So, what else are some people doing to manage to be on there that long?”

That is Christine Rankin talking to Mike Hosking this morning. 40,000 people under the age of 25 on a job seeker benefit, an increase of 66% compared to six years ago - that tells me that Labour's policies have not worked when it comes to getting young people into meaningful work. That tells them that it's okay to rely on the state for the rest of your life. Where you will have few choices, limited options. It will always be grinding poverty.

How is that kind? And I would really love to know. I didn't hear that question being asked of Marama Davidson yesterday. I don't see that it's kind to keep people on benefits, and yet what do you do? I know of a business that's had to closed down in a very small town in the Far North. They were desperately trying to get young people in the district where unemployment is high because there are few opportunities. They would take the van. They would knock on the doors, they would give them the soap, the shampoo, the clothes they needed to turn up for work. The longest one of the kids lasted was three days and then they just could not get up in the morning. They'd stayed up all night. They tried, I think, about 11 or 12 young people, young men and women, and the kids had the best of intentions initially.

But because they've come from three years where they haven't had to show up for anything. During Covid that wasn't even an option because the schools were closed. They don't know how to get out of bed in the morning and how is letting them keep doing that good for them. For any young person? You see, that to me is the cruelty. We're just running on different train tracks. The Greens and Carmel, who I think is fantastic and does great work with the people, but the stats don't lie. The number of kids under 25 on job seeker has increased by 66% since Labour became part of a government and then sole charge.

What the hell is the future of those kids?

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.


Anonymous said...

Kerre, I always read your pieces. I pretty much agree with the vast majority of what you say.

I'm on this site as I require the truth and facts and they do get delivered here....because I often fact check .

The facts don't lie - but the left are terrible liars.

Your second to last sentence -Please stop defending the greens and Carmel, they are radicals, with racist and destructive policies and we have 6 years of evidence as proof. The coalition of chaos do not deserve any kind words or praise AT ALL.

Other than that....great work as usual. :)

Anonymous said...

No doubt their will be exemptions based on race and impact of colonialism.

Gaynor said...

Please ,please Kerre and other writers of articles include education somewhere as a factor in this. Even just a token comment.

I have met youth who are job-seekers and the depressing element is that they do not feel their 10 years or so of education has prepared them for the work place.
How could it when our stats on achievement particularly in the basics are so poor?
Not only that but the philosophy underlying our so called education system is not focused on academic or intellectual achievement but instead schooling is a vehicle for promoting socialism.

aA work ethic, marking work, completing work and correcting work is not in the agenda of this constructivist philosophy which insists school should be enjoyable and directed by the child' s wishes. Well that definitely is not the situation in the real workplace.

Hazel Modisett said...

People on the jobseeker benefit have always been required to provide a list of jobs they have applied for, it is rarely enforced or followed up on because WINZ employees for the most part are lazy & incompetent.
If Luxon wants to balance the books & save money, he would be better off sacking 75% of Wellingtons top heavy & totally useless, pot licking bureaucracy & employ people that actually understand what their positions require & are willing to do it, as opposed to just turning up & receiving a salary. Central govt is the largest waste of money ever & the amount of oral flatulence coming from the debating chamber in parliament house is not only an embarrassment, but could heat Wellington for free if properly harnessed. Politicians should be charged a carbon tax every time they open their mouths...