New university research highlights the grave deficiencies in the ‘work first’ approach to welfare so beloved of both National and Labour governments.
“In a thesis released this week, Victoria University student Alicia Sudden explores the experiences of 234 people who had stopped receiving benefits.
“Two years later only 143 were in any form of paid work, and much of that work was precarious and low paid.
“The study also reveals in detail the punitive way in which job seeking beneficiaries are treated, including the preposterous case of a pregnant woman being told to start work as a beekeeper two weeks before her baby was due.
“Our group has fought for years against policies which demand that pregnant women, sole parents with young children, and the sick, injured and disabled are pushed into paid work regardless of the downstream negative impacts on their and their children’s health and wellbeing,” says Sue Bradford, a spokesperson for Auckland Action Against Poverty.
“The focus of Work and Income’s efforts should be on supporting the hundreds of thousands of unemployed people who aren’t in these categories into decent jobs.
“Furthermore, MSD itself should collect statistics about job outcomes for people who have been through Work and Income.
“No university or community researcher has the means to gather all the data, but the government has the resources and should collect this information as a matter of course.
“I suspect that the reason statistics aren’t kept is that MSD does not want the public to know the true situation which Ms Sudden’s thesis has gone some way to expose.
“AAAP calls on National and Labour alike to reverse policies which see getting beneficiaries into paid work – no matter how temporary, low paid or unsuitable – as the primary focus of welfare.
“Social security should return to its original purpose as a safety net which ensures a fair society rather than as a mechanism to force people into endless, pointless shifts between the benefit system and ill-paid, part time and temporary work.