INDEPENDENT NEWS

Real cost to our society of savings in benefit payments

Published: Tue 9 Aug 2011 05:11 PM
The real cost to our society of savings in benefit payments
On 27 September 2010 the Government introduced new legislation to require people on Sickness and Unemployment Benefits to reapply for these benefits annually. Kay Brereton of the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation of New Zealand says "almost a year later we can see the results of this law change, it is being trumpeted by the Government as a success because 7400 beneficiaries have had their Unemployment Benefit stopped, and we are yet to see the full effect of the changes on Sickness beneficiaries.
Rather than a success this is a snapshot of the failing of Work and Income to help people find work, the taxpayer expects that Work and Income staff are proactively engaging with clients to assist them in their job search and monitor their success. Whereas staff regularly tell job seekers that it's not their job to find the job seeker a job. These figures show that in fact this proactive engagement is not happening and that what is happening instead is that beneficiaries are being demonized, and accused of fraud.
If Work and Income is working with their job seekers there would be no need for an annual review to access whether people are actively seeking work, the case manager would know the clients current circumstances as a result of their frequent contact with the client. The truth behind these figures is that a concerted effort by Work and Income to find people ineligible is succeeding. The result is that people with very limited employment prospects due to literacy, criminal convictions, language and other barriers are being failed at reapplication because they don't have the skills and the paperwork to satisfy the case manager that they have been actively seeking work.
Advocates report that the people they have come into contact with whose benefits are stopped in this way quickly become homeless and hungry, and often see no option other than crime to survive.
Is there really a saving for the taxpayer when vulnerable community members are left without income, homeless and hungry because their benefits have been stopped?
ENDS

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