CTU Media Release
5 December 2012
Punitive Approach to Beneficiaries Misguided
The Council of Trade Unions told the Social Services Select Committee at Parliament today that the punitive approach to beneficiaries is misguided. The real issue is that there are not enough jobs.
Submitting on the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill, Council of Trade Unions (CTU) Secretary Peter Conway said that “between 1999 and 2008 the number of people on unemployment benefit fell from 162,000 to 17,700 and that was due to more and more jobs being available. This Bill therefore is the wrong approach, we need government policy and investment that promotes decent jobs”.
The CTU also opposed amendments which to reduce the benefit by 50 percent if the beneficiary does not meet new social obligations like enrolling children into childcare, and noted that the Bill introduces these sanctions despite the Welfare Working Group opposing them. Peter Conway said “in the end these sanctions reduce income for the family, impact negatively on children and increase child poverty.”
“Moves to sanction beneficiaries who refuse or fail pre-employment drug tests are also concerning. The Ministry of Health raised significant issues with the effectiveness, workability and affordability of the proposal and recommended alternative action. The Privacy Commissioner has significant concerns about potential over-reliance on drug testing by employers.”
The CTU is also concerned about potential use of private providers to undertake the new work ability assessments (which assess beneficiaries with disabilities or long-term illnesses as to what work they could do). The introduction of a similar scheme in the United Kingdom has been heavily criticised by doctors, independent auditors and disability advocates for delivering poor outcomes.
Peter Conway said “we are calling on the Government to take action on jobs, boost training opportunities and support industry rather than spend all their time reducing youth wages, removing worker rights such as appeal against unfair dismissal, and passing laws which simply blame beneficiaries for needing a benefit”.