Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Way to ruin my Tuesday, Paula Bennett

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.


PK said...

*** 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.***

If you spend some time in courtrooms it becomes apparent a number of people on sickness benefits are quite able. This is definitely an area that is open to abuse.

McFlock said...

... because the ability to break the law inexpertly enough to get caught is in no way a sign of unsuitability for most workplaces?

logic FAIL.

A Nonny Moose said...

What about these so-called "dreamer" solo parents that, when forced to work, have to find child care or after school programs? That's another chunk of stress and finances taken out of their already meager supply.

Also, a lot of part time work is pretty shitty, physical and stressful - on your feet in retail; being abused by customers; cleaning toilets. Being in work is supposed to lift your lifestyle, huh? Not if you have some sort "3 strikes and no benefit" policy - take this shitty job your overqualified/undersupported for or you get nothing. Way to make people feel good about themselves.

Oh wait, I forgot - they're not overqualified, not if they can't get that ACE that's been sliced and diced.

National - taking away you support and options, AND kicking you in the teeth since 2008.

AnneE said...

The worst thing is that none of these "get tough" initiatives will achieve anything at all. Every time the employment market improves, people who (a)can work and (b)are actually employable rush to take up the jobs. As for sole parents there has been report after report explaining exactly what difficulties stand in the way of being able to come off the DPB (domestic violence is major, and so is child illness and disability), how sole parents differ, etc etc, but the govt of the day refuses to take this information seriously. Because all that really matters seems to be giving teh IMPRESSION of "getting tough on bludgers" - not actually helping people manage and contribute as best they can, including through unpaid work.

Anonymous said...

the statement was for school aged children, so isn't the state providing the child minder service already in the form of school?

Anonymous said...

The NZ government is currently borrowing $240 million per week to keep "business as usual" going. Why should we be borrowing money to pay people to sit on their a**? If they are able to work, then they should work. If they are genuinely sick, then an annual review doesn't seem too much of a hardship to me.

Cat said...

Re: the argument about 'the kids are at school so the parents can work'.

That's fine as long as the kids don't get sick. Or as long as it's not holidays and you've already used up all your annual leave. And etc.

I used to manage a group that included several mothers, some of them single mothers but not all. Even those with partners found it hard to deal with the 'more school holidays than annual leave' issue.

And I imagine that many employers of part-time staff, particularly if they're small businesses, find it hard to cover for parents who have to stay at home and look after sick kids at short notice.

It's just not that simple.

KG said...

If part-time work is "appalling", then being forced to work in order to pay for those who won't, or those who regard having taxpayer-funded children as a "right" is a damn sight worse.

Heine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie said...

Not sure why Heine deleted his comment.

As to the issue of there being plenty of jobs around, we know that there just aren't. I think this example is pretty powerful.

And in terms of this part time stuff we are talking about, as other commenters have pointed out, very particular types of part time work that aren't as straight forward as a few shifts a week at a supermarket or a shop.

I imagine that those on sickness benefits have some very specific needs around suitable part time work too. My own experience of being too ill to work for several years taught me that you may look fine on Monday, and do lots of stuff, but then you'll spend Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday recovering. And with some illnesses it's hard to forecast when you are going to be able to work and when you are not. So even part time work is hard, and it's setting up aggravation for employers too.

A Nonny Moose said...

"I imagine that those on sickness benefits have some very specific needs around suitable part time work too."


This goverment makes it sound like if you don't have an obvious disability like limb lopped off or you're comatose, you can work. They make it sound like they have no sympathy for mental health - they're all a pack of fakers. And that's JUST the dog whistle they're aiming for.

@KG: No one's forcing you to work. Perhaps you should go for a little jaunt through the social welfare system to gain some empathy and perspective. This is a broad ranged policy to target only a small minority of "bludgers", which will punish the majority of well meaning and truly needful people.

Heine said...

Sorry Julie, I wrote it and then I saw a typo and deleted it, and then my internet went down.

My feelings are that we have too many people out there who are ruining it for the truely needy. The public be a lot more sympathetic to these people if there wasn't such an obvious culture of laziness that exists in society.

Anonymous said...

When I was on the DPB living in my cold damn (crappy) housing new zealand house I had to accept free bread that was a day old from nuns who went around our nieghbourhood giving it out. I ate the bread while I gave my son proper food. When he was a 1yr old I went back to work because I'm just not the kind of person to sit around doing nothing. Working part time, paying childcare, even with government subsidies actually meant that I was making a loss. I still did it though, because I like working, until there was a change in staff at the childcare centre which made me concerned about my sons welfare, so I pulled him out which meant I had to quit work.

He's now five and I'm studying. It was a mission and a half to find papers that fit in within school hours. As the express buses were cut back without notifying anyone it means that two days of the week I'm actually late to pick up my son and need to pick him up from the office. I can't put him in after school care because it is full. He's on the waiting list.

Living the dream? Try living a goddamn nightmare that whenever you try to crawl out of it you get slapped in the face again and again.

Amnion said...

"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."

I'm not sure it is intended to make it harder to qualify for the sickness benefit. Doctors can be trapped into the 13 week thing, when people who are sick really should be seen monthly . As a doctor your job is actually to improve the health of people and with acute problems, to make them well enough not to need that benefit.

It can be very frustrating when an individual and WINZ conspire to force your hand into declaring them sick. IMO newly sick people should be seeing their doctor often, to become more well. But a certain sector have no interest in the health part of it, just the money part of it.

I don't mind the idea of people who say they are sick enough not to be able to work having to touch base with a doctor a couple of times before that stretches out the 3 months off work

Amnion said...

In the main these get tough initiatives will punish the completely entitled and do nothing to the malingerers. It will cause anxiety to people trying their best.

There are 2,000 fewer jobs this quarter - so the point in compelling the sick and parents at home into 15 hours a weeek of work is?

Some WINZ case managers are malevolent, these things can be used as threats too, to someone you dont see eye to eye with.

We certainly need to discourage young women without any goals from motherhood as a source of income, this will go no way towards doing that. Indeed there is an incentive to have another when the youngest is 6, if you were pervers

Dunno why I'm worried, there are no jobs. the problem is the process.

And about the 'dream' lifestyle, don't all these people actually meet our social welfare criteria? Why does that make them bad people?

Adriana said...

This initiative is not designed to punish the entitled, it is designed to root out the untentitled. For example people who emigrate to NZ, set up accommodation and then claim they are unable to work. If they are unable to work - why does NZ let them in and allow them to benefit from our welfare system? During the 1960s my kiwi father wanted to emigrate to Canada but there were no jobs so they didn't let him in. It should be the same here.

Adriana said...

whoops - forgive any typos