Shocked by the ‘Welfare Working Group’

Submitted by Jane

I’m shocked by the recommendations by the welfare working group.

Here is one of them:

‘b) The Welfare Working Group recommends that:
i. recipients who do not meet their obligations would be subject to:
a. graduated reductions in their welfare assistance of:
– 25 per cent of their payment for a first failure;
– 50 per cent of their payment for a second failure;
– 100 per cent of their payment for their third failure; and
– a 13-week stand-down for a fourth or any subsequent failure;’

These recommendations are using the threat of cutting benefits to those that don’t toe the line. These recommendations violate the basic human rights to food, shelter and security.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that;

‘ * (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
* (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.’

The welfare working group also recommends that the government should act by:

b) ‘replacing existing benefit categories with a single payment called ‘Jobseeker Support’’

They recommend that the title for parents on the domestic purposes benefit should be re-titled ‘job seekers’. This seems to imply that child care is not a job in itself.

Looking after children is work. Personally I think it’s the hardest job in the world. I think that as a society, we should value caring work much more highly. Personally, I think that caring for others is one of the highest forms of human activity, it’s what makes us human. Volunteer work doesn’t seem to be valued by the welfare working group either, only paid work.

Here are some more of the recommendations:

‘b) The majority of Working Group members recommend that where a parent has an additional (second or any subsequent) child while receiving assistance from the welfare system (except where they are pregnant at the time of coming into the welfare system):

i. expectations to look for work should begin once the youngest child reaches 14 weeks old’

These recommendations expect parents to be looking for jobs and putting very small children into child care, even as solo parents. Personally, I think that solo mothers and fathers put in a herculean effort in to raising children. Should 14 week year old babies be put in childcare? Personally I don’t think their parents should be forced to.

These recommendations go further than proposing to violate basic human rights, they violate the contract between citizens and the state that go along with a liberal democratic, capitalist society. Such a society was based on the deal that although it did not create equality (i.e. like the various forms of socialism promised) that it would instead create equality of opportunity, and support to those that could not work, and did not have guaranteed work (because of a society that lacked of full employment).

To me, the condescending and punitive tone of the recommendations is a blaming of the victims. At this time we could be creating many jobs for those on the unemployment benefit. This could be through converting our economy into a green one that has excellent public transport, which relies less on fossil fuels, and has warm dry, sustainable homes that meet basic world health organisation guidelines. Picking on those on benefits seems like true victim blaming. The vulnerable should not be bullied. The spotlight ought to be on the need to create good jobs for those that are able to work, and to create a caring, supporting and appreciative community for those that give up their time to do care work, volunteer work, or those that are unwell or cannot work for other reasons.

Sources:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml

Welfare Working Group Executive summary. http://ips.ac.nz/WelfareWorkingGroup/Index.html

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