Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Benefit below subsistence level

This story in the Herald today horrifies me:

...Sara, a 35-year-old West Auckland mother in her second year of an applied science degree at Unitec, gets $517 a week in welfare but needs $668 a week to pay rent, drive to her classes and run a home for herself and her 12-year-old daughter - a shortfall of $151 a week.

Her doctor advised her to go to the Waitakere office of Social Development Minister Paula Bennett because her weight had dropped from 59kg to just under 50kg since early last year as a result of her not being able to afford food.

Ms Bennett's office made an appointment for her with Work and Income's Westgate manager, but the agency could come up with only an extra $4 a week.

She cannot use her surname in print because she is afraid of a violent ex-partner. But the Herald supplied her full details to Ms Bennett and to Work and Income's head office in Wellington, which confirmed that she is receiving her "full and correct entitlement".

Beneficiary advocate Pam Apera said cases like Sara's were common and she was fielding a growing number of calls from beneficiaries who could see no way out except suicide...

Click through for the whole thing.

I don't have time to write about it properly, so hope one of the others will if they can, but in the meantime check out Idiot/Savant's post about how this goes back to the benefit cuts of the 1990s which deliberately went 20% below subsistence level.


Anonymous said...

I'm afraid it was one of the most sensible articles I've read in the Herald in a long time. Not much drama, quite a few believeable facts.
How to get back into the workforce when you've got a 12 year old daughter... starving yourself is legal, right?

Julie said...

Thanks Anon for your comment, please be aware we have recently changed our policy on anon comments and now require some form of handle on them, e.g. a psuedonym, initial or name at beginning or end.

This is mainly to help with debate when we get multiple anons commenting on a thread. As we only instigated this this week, and your comment is clearly otherwise within the bounds of our policy, I'll let your comment stay, please consider this a friendly notification.

I've just updated the comment box form thingy so that it's clear.

On topic (rather than On moderation), it did occur to me that this woman and her daughter would be assisted significantly if they could get into a state house and have income-related rent. Pity this Govt is dialling down the state housing renewal programme started last decade.

ScubaNurse said...

On the upside...
With the new tax split being advised, if she can find a Man who earns lots her motherhood is all of a sudden of value and she can 'legitimately leech' along with the rest of the remuera house wives.
Watch this space for my fists of RAGE!!!

Hugh said...

I'm surprised WINZ didn't advise her to get a man. That's clearly the implicit purpose of their policy; they might as well be up front about it.

Carol said...

Instead of incoming splitting for couples for tax purposes, why not just raise the child benefit/family support level for everyone with children?

Although, in the case cited, it also shows how unfair teh cut to training allowances has been.

A Nonny Moose said...

If you're infuriated by the article, the Your Views attached comments will blow your mind. Some perfect examples of benefit bashing going on there.

@ Hugh: Why yes, that's just what a lot of YV commenters are suggesting! Along with losing luxuries like heating to cut her power bill, clothes for her child, and a car. I wonder what part of "this woman is starving herself to subsist" these people are missing?

Oh and let's not forget about the other "past poor/students" who wandered in to pass their judgments on how to pull oneself up by the bootstraps. Really some people just love to kick someone in a worse position.

Paula Bennett must be so proud right now.

smashingyeti said...

I was so upset reading this article..and then i made the huge mistake of reading the comments-some extremely selfish and deluded people!

I can't believe they seriously expect her to just move house..have they thought about how much that costs? What part of 'she has no money' don't they understand?

And suggesting she get a part time job-yea that will really improve the situation. Maybe one of them can find her a part time job that fits in her study, as well as allowing her to look after her daughter and that pays enough to make it actually worthwhile?

I can't believe the government is going to give me, a single person with no children and a good income, a massive tax cut, but let this women and her daughter starve! Talk about screwed priorities!

kiwi-Jane-Maree said...

Same-old, same-old, been going on for decades, even longer..

A price-taking commodity-exporting economy can improve the exporters' income only by lowering their "overheads":
Taxes (lower govt spending);
Wages (raise the level of unemployment & cut the UB);
Import duties of various sorts (& kill import-substituting industries competing with sweated labour overseas);
Energy & other inputs (the rest of us pay more).

There's a certain well-heeled section of the population that regards the rest of us as Staff (at best) & an over-populating nuisance (at worst)..

With fellow-citizens like that, who needs any other enemies?