Welfare Plans a Step in the Right Direction
National's Welfare Plans a Step in the Right Direction
According to Dr Muriel Newman of the New Zealand Centre for Political Research, the National Party's social welfare reforms are definitely a step in the right direction.
"The key issue that we face as a country is how to ensure that welfare support is available for those in genuine need, while making sure that people who are capable of working do so.
"Over the years pockets of New Zealand's welfare system have become very ineffective at assisting beneficiaries back into work. Many of the welfare law changes introduced during Labour's three terms of government - such as removing a work requirement for sickness beneficiaries and extending the entitlement to the domestic purposes benefit - have made the situation much worse. As a result, in spite of a critical shortage of jobs around the country, numbers on disability and sole parent benefits have remained far too high.
"For some years now the OECD has been telling our government that sole parent welfare dependency is the prime cause of child poverty in New Zealand, stating that the risk of children growing up in poverty is three times higher in jobless sole parent families. They have said that our rates of reliance on the Domestic Purposes Benefit are excessive, that the incentives for mothers to move back to work are far too weak, and that New Zealand spends far more than most OECD countries on income support for sole parents.
"National's plan to require sole parents with school age children to undertake part-time work, training or job search will help those parents make the transition from dependency to self-reliance. Given our extremely high rates of child poverty in New Zealand, much more needs to be done - such as capping the benefit to discourage DPB beneficiaries from having more children to escape the work requirements - but at least, at last, it is a start.
"Overseas evidence also shows that the most effective welfare programmes include an annual review process to ensure that the recipients are not only receiving the proper assistance, but that they are legitimately entitled to be on the programme and are making genuine progress in moving off. It is therefore pleasing to see that National plans to introduce an annual review for anyone on the dole.
"For a small country, we have far too many people reliant on welfare. It is long past time that the system was changed so that beneficiaries who can and should be working are supported into the workforce so they can build a decent life for themselves independent of the state", Dr Newman said.