BIG NEWS: National’s welfare policy is hot air on a cold day – it won’t happen

Monday, August 15, 2011

National’s welfare policy is hot air on a cold day – it won’t happen

National’s plan to get tough on 16-18 year olds will not happen – and listening to John Key defending the policy on Morning Report today I suspect Key actually doesn’t even believe that it will be implemented the way he would like. I don’t think it will be implemented properly at all – because most things can be done without a policy change and they are just not being done now.

What would help is if the Government was as loud on the desirability of intact stable two-parent families as they were on waving a stick at teen beneficiaries whom nobody wants to employ or train. Perhaps he could ask why WINZ has put these teens in the too-hard basket, along with those who have been receiving a benefit for 10 years.

Young sole parents would be required to be in work or training – but there are not enough work or training opportunities for the ones that have not got themselves pregnant or dropped out of school.

There are between 8500 and 13,500 aged 16 and 17 not in work, training or education – and of those about 4000 are on benefits. The policy costs at least $20m a year to implement, (that’s about a few hours of borrowing). That’s $5,000 per person if each person was assisted in the first year. If only a third were assisted that’s $15,000 a person – and that’s if they are not back on a benefit after three months because there is no job follow up.

Not even a third will be assisted. The policy won’t be targeted properly, therefore it won’t be implemented correctly. This policy is not about getting people into work or training - it is about getting few people off benefits without saying how that will happen, who is going to do it, how it will be implemented and if it will be evaluated. If a vulnerable pregnant teen was supported by her parents and didn’t need a benefit, do you think the WINZ or any other government funded group will help her find training or a job?

No they won’t – even though, legally, any teen 16 and over can register with WINZ as a job seeker and should get training opportunities if they want to skill up or get a get a job – even if they are not receiving a benefit.

All the significant matters – direct crediting power, pre-loaded payment cards, budgeting advice, obligation to look for work or be in training, training on literacy and numeracy, can be done now. If John Key thinks the current system is “abandonment” this that perhaps reflects the government’s attitude to these people – abandonment, with nice words.

My earlier blog post on this topic is here.

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