BIG NEWS

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

National's welfare policy is work for the dole in drag


National released its welfare policy today.

Although there's a focus on work, its not work for the dole, because too many of those on the dole are now on sickness and invalids benefits. But beneficiaries must work or be sanctioned. Those on the DPB will have to enter work or training for 15 hours once their youngest child reaches six. Most care for children under six and the best way to avoid this is to have more kids.

About 5,600 sickness and invalid beneficiaries have been categorized as capable of working, and John Key says even Invalids beneficiaries will be required work for at least 15 hours per week in employment, training, or job-seeking activities. Like telemarketing and pushing trolleys at supermarkets, thus keeping wages where they are.

Yet, the MSD guidelines state that to qualify for an Invalid’s Benefit you must be 16 or over and unable to regularly work 15 hours or more a week, unless you are blind. Those on sickness benefits will have to get a doctor's medical certificate every four weeks instead of the current 13 weeks. Doctors will be very happy with the extra income.

National will require those who have been on the dole for more than a year - about a third of the register - to re-apply for their benefit and undergo a comprehensive work assessment. It is not clear those who have transferred to the sickness benefit after being on the dole for a year also need to reapply. It appears they don't, which will increase the numbers on the sickness benefit as many transfer to other benefits to avoid reapplying.

Those who are working will get the first $100 before their benefit is abated by 70% for each dollar earned, which is really equivalent to a CPI adjustment and should have already been done. They should make the threshold at least $140 to align it with the increase in the minimum wage.

John Key has said paid work is the route to independence. What he didn't say was that it didn't matter if that paid work was undertaken while on a benefit.

It does matter, but National's policy does not reflect that, because there's little that enables beneficiaries to get full time jobs.

This only leads one to conclude that National doesn't care if people are on benefits as long as they are working.

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