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Nats don’t believe own welfare policy

Even National doesn’t believe its own welfare policy

National’s lurch rightwards was confirmed today with the release of its welfare policy which advocates proposals its senior MPs, including leader Bill English, totally ruled out when the party was in government at the end of the 1990s.

Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey said the bulk of the proposals are lifted straight from Jenny Shipley’s 1998 Code of Social and Family Responsibility – while others were tried by National during the 1990s and were proven failures.

“Ideas such as work-for-the-dole, time limits and penalties for those who don’t immunise their children will not work and National knows it. The party either tried all of these ideas in government or proposed them in Jenny Shipley’s Code of Social and Family Responsibility and was forced into a humiliating backdown after overwhelming public opposition.

“Let’s take a look at the evidence, rather than National’s beneficiary bashing rhetoric: work-for-the-dole failed according to the evaluation Roger Sowry himself commissioned. The evaluation showed beneficiaries who received no help at all from Work and Income were more likely to move into paid work than those trapped in the make-work scheme; time limits on benefits won’t work because the state will have to find some way of supporting people who have not been able to find work, as experience in other countries shows; work-testing sole parent beneficiaries failed because what they actually need is the kind of one-to-one support to be an effective parent and to move into work that the current government is now providing.

“Many of these suggestions in this document are meaningless as National themselves admit. They say they want to penalise teen parents – yet they acknowledge that there is little evidence that this is successful. They want to link benefit payments and the immunisation of children – yet they say they won’t actually force parents to get their kids immunised. They say they want to target truancy – yet they are only proposing to focus on the children of beneficiaries.

. . / 2 “It is deeply ironic that National is still coming up with these kinds of beneficiary bashing ideas because the beneficiary population has fallen to levels dramatically lower than they themselves presided over. Unemployment, for instance, is down 33 percent since we came to office. The number of working age beneficiaries (both work-tested and non work-tested) was 386,000 in 1999 and now stands at 345,000 people.

“Comments from party leader Bill English, his deputy Roger Sowry and welfare spokesperson Katherine Rich (attached) ruling out the very kind of proposals being floated here show how desperate National has become to grab headlines. They know these proposals will not work, they have so said themselves, and National is only proposing them now because they know they would have to be dropped should the party ever return to government.

“These proposals reveal Bill English’s desperate lurch rightwards to shore up his failing leadership and to head off would-be challenger and arch beneficiary basher Don Brash.

“There are, however, a few interesting ideas in this policy, but the government is already doing them. For example: we already work-test recipients of the unemployment benefit; we agree that child care is the key to enabling beneficiary parents to take up work and education opportunities – that’s why we’ve invested in this in each of our budgets we are very keen to ensure that men are financially and emotionally responsible for their children and the Ministry of Social Development is already working on policy proposals to strengthen this.

“What is striking about this document is how few postive ideas it actually contains. Beneficiaries want opportunities and, as rapdily falling uemployment shows, they will take them when they are offered. Where is the mention of the training and other programmes which actually equip beneficiaries to move into work? What about community-based programmes which are delivering real results? What about reform of the benefit system so that moving into work is financially possible and rewarding?

“National has been growing something a reputation as a ‘back to the future’ party – stuck in a 1990s timewarp and unable to come to terms with modern New Zealand. The policy proposals released today show the party has become all ‘back’ and no ‘future’. New Zealanders deserve better,” says Steve Maharey.

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