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Welfare reforms given big thumbs down

Social Development Spokesperson
30 November 2012 MEDIA STATEMENT

Welfare reforms given big thumbs down

The Government’s big-stick welfare reforms, similar to the much criticised UK model, look set to inflict even more hardship on thousands of Kiwis, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.

Hearings of submissions on the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill began today.

“After listening to the submitters it’s clear that there is very little support for the Government’s reforms, which will see financial sanctions being imposed on parents if they don’t meet certain obligations, increased penalties for jobseekers who fail to take a ‘suitable’ job, work testing for parents when their child turns one, and third party providers contracted to assess work suitability.

“Almost every submitter raised considerable and legitimate concerns, including perpetuating the stereotypes about people on government support. As one solo mother said of the social obligations: ‘Lumping us in to one category of neglectful parents is not justified. There is nothing more important to me than my children.

“Others raised concerns around the elements of the bill allowing the use of contractors -particularly for work capability assessments when people (including those with disabilities) apply for government support.

“This has been copy-catted from Britain, a country whose increasingly privatised model of contracted assessments has resulted in outcomes described as ‘disastrous’ and hugely damaging.

“The need to be aware of the effect of these reforms on children and young people came through strongly in the oral submissions. As one mother pointed out, any changes that affected her would also affect her child.

“Increasing financial sanctions and placing hefty work obligations on mothers when their child is just a year old flies against the principle that we should be putting children, and their well-being, at the heart of our policy-making.

“If the pleas we heard today are anything to go by, then the Government really needs to do some listening,” Jacinda Ardern said.


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