We all knew it was coming sooner or later, but even so it feels like being slapped, reading Paula Bennett's release today on what will amount to cutting access to benefits.
"Future Focus" they're calling it. Why exactly? What does that mean?
Anyway, the name is the least of the troubles. It's all based around the concept that those who can work should. Which is all well and good if there are jobs galore. But there aren't.
So instead we end up with a regime which blames beneficiaries for the absence of employment options. Generally those without work don't have a lot of power about creating jobs. Seems pretty unfair to then punish them for not getting jobs that don't exist and which they have no power to create.
Several of the measures, notably for those on the sickness and domestic purposes benefits are based around pushing part time work as the answer. But part time work in New Zealand is often appalling. Many of those working part time currently do it because of parenting obligations, and they find it difficult to access many of the basic rights that other workers do, even in the same workplace. I've had part time workers tell me their employer said they're not entitled to sick leave, they've been excluded from professional development opportunities everyone else gets, or they simply have to work more hours than they are paid to get the job done. There needs to be some serious work done to address the inequities around part time work already, and forcing a whole heap more people to work part time only gives employers more power to mistreat part timers without helping at all.
Future Focus also ignores the fact that sometimes you are on a benefit because you can't work for a very good reason. Take for example those on the sickness benefit; they will now get work-tested to see if they can work part-time, at least, have a 12 month review, and a new 8 week medical certificate which is intended to make it harder to qualify for the sickness benefit. That'll learn them for getting sick.
Ok, I'm going to stop now before I get too depressed.