Latest reforms an atrocious attack on NZ’s most vulnerable

AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release 17 September 2012, 4.30pm

Latest reforms an atrocious attack on NZ’s most vulnerable

The Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill is an atrocious attack on our countries most vulnerable, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

We have already heard the damning issues with many of the announced policies over the passed two weeks but the latest announcement, which will see increased work ability assessments and work preparation expectations for those who are sick or living with disability, is even more horrendous.

Increased work ability testing is incredibly stressful and has lead to suicides in the UK where a similar policy has been implemented. Beneficiary advocates in NZ have already been critical of the ‘hatchet doctors’ that Work and Income use in order to test such obligations.

The use of such hatchet doctors will see many who are currently on the sickness benefit and the invalids benefit forced to undertake work preparation and to look for employment when their physical and mental health will not allow it.

In addition, Bennett claims that benefit rates are not being cut, however, for those currently on the Invalids Benefit who are shifted onto Job Seeker Support there will be a very real decrease in their benefit rate making it even harder for people to get by.

These latest changes highlight the new ‘investment approach’ with its focus on shifting people considered to have the highest ‘liability’ into work, yet attention is not being given to the barriers to employment.

Since the end of 2008 NZ has lost 50,000 jobs and we already have 162,000 able bodied people (many without dependents) seeking work that is just not there. Bennett is in fantasy land if she thinks that these welfare reforms will therefore lead to 44,000 less people receiving a benefit – unless of course they come off benefit and move onto street corners.

Placing increased pressure on those who have very real barriers to work is not going to solve the problem of increasing unemployment and poverty – decent job creation, higher benefit rates and a living wage would, however, go a long way.”

ENDS

 Info on disability suicide risk in UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jun/20/jobcentre-supervisors-suicide-risk-benefit-claimants

Info on work capacity test in the UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/nov/25/harrington-report-incapacity-testing-simplistic

Info on ‘hatchet doctors’: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7686228/Winz-joins-ACC-in-firing-line-for-hatchet-doctors