The strange case of Paula Bennett

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welfare

Paula Bennett is becoming more and more blatant in her persona as the face of National’s war on the poor.

In this morning’s Herald she says, “… I think living on the full DPB is hard. I don’t know how you can live on 50%.”

Yet Paula Bennett’s welfare reforms are the very vehicle by which more and more people are being sanctioned.

Sanctions can mean having your benefit cut by 50%, losing it altogether – or never being granted assistance in the first place.

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The government’s own figures show that over the last six months an average 4,654 beneficiaries a month have had at least half their benefit taken from them, or had it cut completely.

Last month, in March 2013, 5,600 people were officially sanctioned.

The latest welfare reform legislation which passed through Parliament last night on a vote of 61-59 – the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Act – is only going to make things a whole lot worse.

In the past National has boasted about not replicating its infamous ’91 benefit cuts. Yet what they’re doing at the moment is just as bad as what they did back then, and a lot more insidious.

I am really fearful of what is to come.

In a time of high unemployment, these changes are simply going to force more and more of the already disadvantaged into competing for what low wage, insecure jobs do exist.

Many more sole parents, disabled, sick and injured people are going to be work tested – and drug tested with sanctionable consequences – as a result of Bennetts’ reforms.

Women who dare to have babies while on welfare face work testing from the time their child is one year old.

And as we can see, the numbers of people being sanctioned is already increasing exponentially.

Benefit rates are wildly variable depending on circumstances and whether your local Work & Income officer grants you your full entitlement, but just to give you some idea of what we’re talking about here, the current net DPB rate is $295.37 a week (half = $147.68); the unemployment benefit rate for a single person aged 22 is $171.84pw (half = $85.92).

The results of all this will be tragic and costly.

More and more people will live in various forms of homelessness – in boarding house rooms, garages, sheds, tents, cars and already overcrowded houses – or outside, in bus shelters, doorways, beaches and parks.

More and more will not have enough to eat each week, much less have adequate heating this winter.
All the reports on child poverty in the world are useless in the face of a Government which deliberately inflicts deepening poverty on people every day of the week.

Paula Bennett displays an amazing honesty when she says she doesn’t know how people can raise a family on half the DPB and that she has ‘concerns’.

Yet she is the Minister responsible for taking the axe to our welfare system, and to peoples’ lives.
I continue to struggle with what kind of disconnection is happening in her mind.

National loves her. She’s doing a much better job than Jenny Shipley ever did at fronting harsh welfare changes.

Much better to have a Maori woman, a former solo mum, taking the lead, than a former school teacher from the white South Island heartlands.

And Bennett knows what she’s doing.

She knows it even more than someone like Shipley, which makes her leadership role in this even worse. Paula Bennett’s seeming naivety and smiling, bubbly front mask a long, deep commitment to National’s ideology – a belief in helping the already-rich get richer while the poor are forced into ever deeper poverty, no matter the downstream social and economic costs.

I’m no psychologist, but I’m sure there’s a name for the psychopathy she so evidently displays – a complete disconnect between ‘caring for people’ and the ideological principles which drive her political career.

Shame on her – and shame on every single person who voted for her and for National at the last election.

We are all reaping what you have sown.

20 COMMENTS

  1. There is another (possibly more disturbing) possibility. She might actually believe that poor people can will themselves rich, or will their kids well if you just get tough enough with them. She might believe that if we were all tough enough, everyone could be one of the 1%.

  2. Yet she is the Minister responsible for taking the axe to our welfare system, and to peoples’ lives.
    I continue to struggle with what kind of disconnection is happening in her mind.

    It’s the simple sociopathy that people must be punished. The other reason for it is that National are determined to lower wages below subsistence living so as to boost profits – just as John Key promised before the 2008 election.

    There’s this as well:

    National leader John Key says if he becomes prime minister the long term unemployed will have to be looking for work, in training, or working for the dole.

    National are out to turn the majority of people into serfs and NZ back into a feudal state.

  3. It’s the hypocrisy I can’t stand. Ms Bennett was notorious in her youth for the moral failings she punishes others for.

  4. Paula?–NZ’s Margaret Thatcher without the charm. Went to the Action against Poverty days at Onehunga WINZ for a bit where over a dozen advocates did some case work. The stories people waiting told me were horrendous. Sue and Paul Blair and others were in the building working so did not get the chance to talk to them but got the message from people on the street.

    Some of them that came out of their localities to Onehunga said it was the first time they had ever had reasonable treatment from a case manager or any WINZ staff member.

    • Yes, on one of those days where AAAP and advocates were sitting outside the Onehunga WINZ office and giving advice to beneficiaries, I had to see someone at WINZ re a matter.

      The staff were almost bending over backwards in courtesy and respect, something I had NEVER seen and experienced before.

      It was only because AAAP were there and scrutinised what they were doing. Usually many of their staff could not care less. I admit some staff there are reasonable, and the Onehunga office is not the worst, for sure. But having advocates check on them, that was a radical change never witnessed before.

      I wish advocates all over NZ would do something similar.

      The sad news is, MSD have been cutting funding to a number of beneficiary advocacy services, which leaves them in a position, where they have to consider closing. BAIS on the North Shore in Auckland come to mind. It has been going on for years now, and once the CBU (Combined Beneficiaries Union) also was forced to close.

      I am sure that this is intentional. They want to stop such services that may critcise and scrutinise them too much. Only ones that do not dare “biting” the had that feeds them are tolerated now.

      “Thank you Paula Bennett”, they will say with a very bad aftertaste in their mouthes. This government is the most shameless lot since Ruth Richardson and Shipley had their go.

  5. She always highlights the “bad” beneficiaries and shows how tough she is on them, but she is also hacking away at those who have found themselves in unfortunate circumstances resulting from the continuation of the economic slump.

    Beneficiaries were granted a cost-of-living increase of 0.61% – that is $1.17 gross for an adult.
    Inflation last year was reckoned to be 2.1% but apparently beneficiaries don’t need the full adjustment. The official explanation was that the selection of goods and services would not all be used by beneficiaries.
    Why do they keep adjusting the inflation shopping-basket instead of sticking to a uniform selection of goods?

    The $1.17 increase is unlikely to cover the 42% increase in my rates, the 20% increase in my insurance, and the 12% increase in my power.

    Because of the dire need to make ends meet for our family of four I were receiving Additional Support of $29.50 per week. Today I found that this has been reduced by 2% or $0.60.
    Net result = $0.44 per week increase in income.

    How much did those politicians get for an increase? Based on $180 per week it will take me 409 weeks to catch up with their increase. That’s just under 8 years to catch up to one week of a politician’s increase.

    How do these people sleep at night?

  6. Good article Sue thank you. The mainly white middle class to wealthy NZr’s still believe this myth that welfare is crippling NZ.When in reality its the cost of keeping some of these waste of spaces alive. National always has and always will attack the poor and the defenseless and what I find more concerning don’t care for our Statutes under law for other matters. It is surely a sad sad state of affairs in this country.
    The only solace I draw is that from adversity comes true leaders those people are born not made, one day this government will loose the stick it beats this horse with but the damage has been done.
    The greed and apathy of the European has spread like the cancer that it is.

    • The mainly white middle class to wealthy NZr’s still believe this myth that welfare is crippling NZ.When in reality its the cost of keeping some of these waste of spaces alive.

      QFT

      The one thing no society can afford is the rich. Get rid of them and we’ll find that we can afford a hell of a lot more than we presently believe. We already own the needed resources and thus we can afford to do what ever we like with them.

      The problem we have is that the rich keep getting their hands on those resources and prevent us from doing what is right with them.

  7. Well Sue has been one of the few hi profile public advocates for beneficiaries for 15 bloody years–get on board.

  8. “I’m no psychologist, but I’m sure there’s a name for the psychopathy she so evidently displays – a complete disconnect between ‘caring for people’ and the ideological principles which drive her political career.”

    Psychopathy: is a popular term often used to refer to a person characterized by reduced fear, a lack of empathy, coldheartedness, egocentricity, superficial charm, manipulativeness, irresponsibility, impulsivity, criminality, antisocial behavior, a lack of remorse, and a parasitic lifestyle. I think you might have already diagnosed her correctly 🙂 .

  9. I think the carrot in the graphic is far too generous to this policy package.How about stick and stick.

    • I believe the image is suppose to show the different approaches between Labour (left, red) and National (right, blue).

  10. It’s easy and politically convenient to manipulate potential voters with the fallacious proposition, “how much of your tax money are poor people wiping their asses with? Probably lots”. Much easier than it is to come up with a convincing, coherent job-creation policy.

    • Much easier than it is to come up with a convincing, coherent job-creation policy.

      Especially when the government is trying to lower wages through mass unemployment.

  11. Great blog post Sue, I can’t wait for the day when New Zealanders wake up and pitchfork National out of it.

  12. But doesn’t it pay to be mindful of the fact that Paula Bennett is mentally unwell ? Or well bribed ???? No normal , empathetic , rational and/ or logically thinking person would do this to harmless , vulnerable people just because the upper echelon , high rollers have made their money and are now off to greener pastures leaving the unemployed , the depressed , the physically sick and the middle class behind to merely exist , as collateral damage to a feeding frenzy of greed ? Did I leave something out ?
    The appalling level of abuse meted out by a highly paid , elected , state official is only testament to our blinkered , myopic view of our dysfunctional society . Paula Bennett is naught more than a product of [ it ] than we are . Paula bennett is the gristly tip of a massive iceberg . Who’s going to be the first to say STOP ! STOP PAULA BENNETT ! ? You ? Me ? Them ? Those over there ? No ? Who then ? Who ?

    See , there in lies the rub as they say in certain circles .

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