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Reforms long on stick, short on detail

Jacinda Ardern
Social Development Spokesperson

13 March 2013

Reforms long on stick, short on detail

The second round of Paula Bennett’s welfare reforms - based in part on flawed UK laws - raise more questions than they answer, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.

“These reforms, reported back to Parliament today, still leave huge question marks around the new work capability assessment requirements, modelled on a much-criticised UK regime.

“Not only does it look like New Zealand is about to repeat the mistakes of another country, the select committee considering the bill has been left in the dark over how the new rules for those currently on a sickness or invalids benefit will work.

“Do we, as a country, want to see cases like the one of the blind former health worker who was reduced to begging after being ‘harassed and bullied’ by work assessors?

“It’s totally understandable that the disability sector in particular have raised concerns over the new regime. Ms Bennett has admitted it was being modelled on the UK but has provided very little detail ever since.

“One thing we do know, however, is that it will do very little to remove barriers to work. As one submitter pointed out: ‘it [the bill] will not add one single more job for a disabled people…it does nothing about attitudes of employers and workers. It does nothing about the ability to make adjustments in the workplace. [There is] nothing about access to education or work experience. If the bill wishes to provide opportunities for people with disabilities to move into the workforce, it doesn’t contribute.’

“With this second tranche also merging the existing seven main benefit categories into three - one of which is ‘jobseeker support’, covering the unemployment benefit, sickness benefit, widow’s benefit, DPB sole parent and DPB women alone – we also run the risk of treating people like a benefit category, instead of addressing their individual barriers to decent sustainable employment.

“Rather than starting from the assumption that people seeking support when they hit hard times actually want to work, Ms Bennett has, from the outset, assumed the exact opposite.

More than 200 people turned out for just seven jobs at Carter Holt in Mangere yesterday. Once application forms ran out many had no way of proving they were actively seeking work. Under Ms Bennett’s reforms that could mean being sanctioned.

“These latest changes do nothing to create jobs for the hundreds of thousands of Kiwis who are out of work. Until Ms Bennett addresses the genuine barriers to work, reforms like these will continue to do more harm than good.”

ENDS

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