The interment of the WEAG report is complete.

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2040

The government’s undermining of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) report: Whakamana Tangata has been masterful.  WEAG was set up in May 2018 and reported finally in February 2019. After sitting on the report for months, the government manoeuvred the burying of it in the launch in May, with a fanfare of three miniscule crumbs to be implemented in 2020.

Subsequent messages since have been along the lines of – “Trust us. We are doing more work on it, wait, a report is coming soon.” And then, “a report is coming in September”, followed by “a cabinet paper is coming December”.  

Then, right on  Christmas, the promised Cabinet paper: Welfare Overhaul: Update on Progress and Long-Term Plan was posted on the website. Who has noticed? Who has the time to read, let alone critique a 39 page report at this time of year?  By the time journalists find it mid-January it will be old news.  

But maybe there is nothing much to notice. Maybe that is the point of releasing it at this time.  Maybe it will sink without a trace.

In the report we are reminded, in case we had forgotten, that the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the New Zealand Labour Party and the Green Party included a promise  to:

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 “overhaul the welfare system, ensure access to entitlements, remove excessive sanctions and review Working for Families so that everyone has a standard of living and income that enables them to live in dignity and participate in their communities, and lifts children and their families out of poverty”

There is a lot of self-congratulation on the Child Poverty Reduction legislation, and ten-year targets, which “aim to roughly halve child poverty within ten years, and establish New Zealand as one of the best performing countries for children.” But the document has virtually nothing to say about specific plans to achieve this. The term: “Working for Families” occurs a paltry seven times and “child poverty” just six times. None of it in depth, so the terms appear only in woolly statements such as:

 “Work will continue on Working for Families, as an integral part of the income support system, its potential to reduce child poverty and reflect the value this Government sees in caregiving”

Really?  Where is a promise to index Working for Families properly?  Or to give the full package of child poverty prevention tax credits to the very worst-off 170,000 children in families who are excluded from a major part of the package and whose poverty is dire. Or the long demanded significant increase to core benefits and to thresholds to allow beneficiaries to earn more on a benefit ? 

Ominously, the term “long-term” occurs 39 times, while “consideration” or “consider” appears 60 times, and “review” appears 29 times. There are 44 references to a “work programme”. 

There are no short-term responses to WEAG other than those three minor ones announced in the budget.  Medium term goals are listed but are very, very vague:

 

  • “resetting the foundations of the welfare system, including the purpose and principles of the Social Security Act 2018 and the consideration of a kaupapa Māori values framework 
  •  increasing income support and addressing debt.
  • strengthening and expanding employment services
  • improving supports and services for disabled people, people with health conditions and disabilities and their carers.
  • building partnerships and enhancing the community sector.”

 

One looks in vain for any clear proposals of actual medium-term policies. Other “ longer term” aspects are clearly not going to be addressed in the foreseeable future: 

“ Some areas of the welfare system are particularly complex and will require more time to consider. Work on these areas will begin at the earliest opportunity, however I do not expect to seek Cabinet decisions within this parliamentary term. In the longer term, I propose we should focus on: simplifying the income support system, aligning the welfare system with other support systems, reviewing housing and childcare supports.”

There is no shred of an indication that core benefits will increase; not now, not in the medium term, and not in the longer term either. I didn’t want to write a despairing blog in the season of goodwill but there is no sense of urgency despite the  social desperation that is so apparent  in the lead up to Christmas.   

 

74 COMMENTS

  1. “Simplifying the income support system” is usually code for reducing rates for those with higher needs down to the basic level as a cost saving measure. In the UK this took the form of universal credit. The opportunity was taken to make people who usually have no money wait five weeks for their payments when they changed over to it. Naturally no-one could have predicted the evictions, repossessions, bankruptcies and suicides this policy created. The conservatives are thought to have caused tens of thousands of premature deaths through these and other policies. But hey, lets vote for the proven liar over the old man who just wants everyone to have a nice life. It could happen here next year as dishonesty is the only policy.

    Reforms to working for families should involve getting workers off it over time by “encouraging” their employers to pay a level of wage that someone can actually live on without WFF being used as a business subsidy. If our economy can no longer generate jobs that actually pay at these rates we need to decide what we need to change to make it do so. There is no point in hand wringing over child poverty when the economy is structured in a way which creates it. And lets ditch child poverty as the yardstick, it is just a way of trying to engage people who couldn’t care less, children in poverty live in groups of adults known as a family who are in poverty, so lets call it family poverty, Woa! the problems suddenly much bigger, who knew?

    Why we insist on people being destitute before they can seek help is self defeating. I am hoping for something to be rolled out before the next election. But as a recent survey indicated over 60% of NZers are not interested in helping their fellow citizens, I’m expecting Jacinda, to go with the feedback from the focus groups on that one unfortunately.

    • Alan – Agree, also unfortunately. It is regrettable that the Coalition is as heartless as it’s predecessor govt, but hypocritical when they pretend to care about people, but do not.

      Human misery and social unrest are the outcome of such pitiless policy, and they carry a huge future cost at every level.

      So, what do we tell the children ? That they don’t matter ? Another 17 year old on the threshold of life killed himself in Wellington yesterday.

    • You are dead right . Today the average kiwi doesn’t give a stuff about peoples long term health needs or their long term welfare needs. I have a 28 year old who is suicidal just because of that fact alone.

      • Geoff Lye – Al the best for your son there – having a caring Dad is a huge plus, but it’s a biggie for everybody -hard to go through. And it is because many Kiwis may not care, that govt has must.

        Govt see the long-term picture of the outcomes from chronic deprivation, and in economic terms alone the costs can be massive – health, crime, crowded prisons, escape into killer drugs, huge wastes of human talent and potential, and they’re morally negligent when they shilly-shally around and earnestly assure the punters that everything will be better 30 or so years along the track.

        ‘Defence of the realm’, should firstly be defence of the constituents of the realm, and especially those most in need of it. Unfortunately we all know that it now means defence of America’s oil supplies and global hegemony, and ensuring big business and banks make utterly obscene profits.

        Some sanctimonious anti-euthanasia politico mounted a pretentious argument seeming to imply that had it existed in Beethoven’s day, a great symphony mightn’t have been composed. Jerk. It is the years inbetween that matter, and the Coalition need to get this drummed into their skulls as a matter of urgency, because it is urgent.

        Note that whenever Minister Sepuloni speaks publicly, she always appears on the defensive- with good reason to be.

        Seasons greetings to you and yours.

      • It will be great if that is the case and something effective comes out of it. But we have seen efficiency used as an excuse to remove support before.

    • Alan: ““Simplifying the income support system” is usually code for reducing rates for those with higher needs down to the basic level as a cost saving measure.”

      Yup. And fundamentally dishonest, in that it applies a one-size-fits-all benefit to a cohort of people with vastly different needs with regard to income. Policy-makers know this. Or ought to: they surely cannot call themselves policy analysts if they’re unaware of this.

      “Reforms to working for families should involve getting workers off it over time by “encouraging” their employers to pay a level of wage that someone can actually live on without WFF being used as a business subsidy.”

      This has always been the most pernicious aspect of attempts such as this (and accommodation supplements) to level the economic playing field for those disadvantaged by the effects of neoliberalism. It’s strategies such as these which have wrecked the notion of the fair wage; and it was completely predictable that this is what would happen. NZ is now a low-wage economy , in which employers factor in social support mechanisms; and why would they not? It’s a rational thing to do. So the taxpayer ends up paying employers a part of what it costs to hire people.

      “Why we insist on people being destitute before they can seek help is self defeating.”

      I couldn’t agree more. It’s bizarre and irrational.

      “I am hoping for something to be rolled out before the next election.”

      As am I. But, given this government’s track record, I’m not holding my breath.

      “But as a recent survey indicated over 60% of NZers are not interested in helping their fellow citizens…”

      Perhaps they read articles like this one:

      https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/118295877/hooked-busting-the-international-drug-cartels-cashing-in-on-nzs-high-prices

      ” The detected average methamphetamine use translates to an estimated 18 million dollars ($18,337,200) per week in social harm. Annually, this could equate to more than $950 million ($953,534,400).

      It is most prevalent per capita in the Northland Police District, followed by Eastern District in Hawke’s Bay.”

      There’s a shedload of money being spent on this stuff: it cannot be only by people in work. As I understand things, both Northland and Hawkes Bay are low-income areas with high Maori populations and large numbers of beneficiaries. Perhaps those people unwilling to see more money going into the benefit system have looked at the stats in this article and concluded that it’s pointless sending good money after bad. And that’s an understandable conclusion to reach, I’m thinking.

  2. Came to the conclusion quite awhile back that Labour are actually no different to National now.
    Over the different election cycles Labour has played this game of supporting business as well as appearing like they are addressing issues the people have but over time its purely become what business or rich people want meaning they are no different to National.
    After the medicinal cannabis scheme BS thats just unfolded I really cant be bothered voting for any political party, they are all bloody useless at helping the people at the bottom. The medicinal cannabis scheme is business orientated and the actual user or patient is just an afterthought.
    Had a gutsful of politicians, all bloody useless.

  3. The only way this will change is if the greens get 15 to 20% of the vote. Which if people who cannot get meds they need or in a relationship with out kids and have long term illnesses and denied a supported living benefit are smart they will do so. Labour needs a fright only way to do that is party vote green in 2020 just on their social justice policy alone.

      • “Id rather the arrangements we have now than be like Tibet”

        That’s on the cards (to be like Tibet) as a clear end-game possibility if the Nats get back in power. I can back up what I’m saying but it would lead into another whole prolonged discussion – not the time just now.

    • Greens have achieved little of substance despite being at the table. While they have become a party of social warriors the enviroment has worsened. No progress on stopping water being bottled or sold with no reward to the country .More poor people to be feed by charities. Rent climb $50 over the year while they spend time on marajuana reform and getting more refugees in the country as our own people cannot find a place to call home..

  4. Labour , National, NZ First the Greens and ACT have two things in common.

    NEO LIBERALISIM and the generous entitlements of the tax payer funded perks of being an MP that actually insulates them from the misery and hardship they are meant too be addressing in particular the LIST MPs who are out of sight , out of mind.

    They play petty gotcha games instead of actually working too really make a difference.

    The Greens should be the odd one out given their strong stance against the system when in opposition but they have succumb too the thugs in the public service who stand over anyone who does not comply with the vicious status quo.

    There will be no help coming to assist in the welfare area because anyone being paid by the state no matter their circumstances are not a priority unless a sitting government has failed in reducing poverty when they miss their target and it becomes negative publicity.

    Also the neo liberal market is only successful when there is a huge poverty gap including the working poor who are legally victimised and exploited by anti union practices and selfish greed.
    Too much money is being made off human misery for there too be any worthwhile change.

    Until there is a real progressive party who will stand up too the neo liberal elite and has the power too not be ignored then Jacinda can promise as many reports as she likes but real change aint gonna happen.

    The sickest joke of all is the National party will campaign that they are the hero who will ride too the rescue and cut the corporate , wealthiest groups taxes and say that we will all have more money in our pockets and how terrible it all is and they have the answer.

    And kiwis will keep voting for it.

    • “The sickest joke of all is the National party will campaign that they are the hero who will ride to the rescue…” (and what they’ll do)

      That will be a worse nightmare.

  5. I think you all need to lower your expectations. This vacuous celebratory superficial government and population arent into solving any of the important issues that can heal society. Sad really.

    Its all literally “White-Noise” to them.
    Whats more important to this government and ‘followers’ is image, EV’s (that increases mining production in impoverished nations, child slave labour), and Green Wash’n Capitalism where you can offset you and your families 4000 kgs/per person of CO2 emissions flight to the UK & back for a few bucks and still believe your contributing to Saving the Planet!

    The worlds been hijacked by vanity and individualism where you can opt-in or out of social issues and crises as and when you please, whichever cause makes you feel good about yourself, matters.

    Time for the Maori to send out eviction notices! 🙂

    • DennyPoa If NZ Maori can show they could effectively lead the way on climate change, they’d capture a significant following, especially among the young. I nearly voted Mana for their social policies, and it was Hone Harawira who stopped me – he can appear bad tempered and racist.

      A focused progressive party could transform this country, and I agree that the current ones are superficial – not too sure on the racist Greens, but sweet talk aint nothing more than sweet talk, and if I hear too much more of it, I could end up running down the street and hugging lamp posts.

      Part of Hitler’s success was due to the power of his oratory, but it does look as if a gift of tongues is what persuades people – as every successful con artist- and tele evangelist – knows.

      • Maori are not your slaves to clean up your own mess. Do it yourself.
        Your colonialism has destroyed anything and everything that is of value to Maori.
        Typically, your Queen is equally offensive as you think Hone is. At times he does fuck me off with some of what he says but hey … if you’ve been through/understand fully what Maori have for the last 179/180 years, you can understand why so many feel the same way.

        Hitlers one of yours! I’ll have Hone any day! And see! I didnt go all woke like your whanaunga and try and get you a ban for using Hitler as an example of white supremacy or anti semitism, or a genocidal maniac, like the pakeha wokes would have done.

        As for the planet. Stop Consumption and you’ll save the Planet. Everything else is just “White Noise!”

        • Well, thanks for that DennyPaoa. But she’s your queen more than mine. I have zero English blood – unlike many Maori. Your people were the people who signed the Treaty with the British crown, not mine.

          …if you’ve been through/understand fully what others have for the last 179/180 years you might be more circumspect about claiming some sort of monopoly on colonialism – and its effects.

          Upon the upland road, ride easy.

            • Kheala – I didn’t dare finish that – in the interests of Peace on Earth – yep, and I know that’s an oxymoron.

              Baxter’s ‘ mountains crouch like tigers’ may be coming to fruition too; I use ‘sleeping gods in the mountains’ – and we may both be right as the gods can behave like tigers – which is a totally dreadful thing to say at Christmas – but easier than making gluten free gravy.

              Merry Christmas

              • Applewood: “…..easier than making gluten free gravy.”

                Gluten-free gravy? Now surely THAT’S an oxymoron!

                • Brigid: “Using a gluten free flour though results in disgusting gloop.”

                  It sounds revolting. I suppose that one could just make an unthickened gravy. Not sure that I’d call it gravy, but.

        • DennyPaoa: Haha, this entire comment is hilarious! Now I’m sure that you’re a spook: pakeha wokes: jeez…..

          “As for the planet. Stop Consumption and you’ll save the Planet.”

          Says you, who’s using a computer or a phone to write this. Hypocrisy rules, ok!

    • DennyPaoa: Your comment here is almost identical to that you posted on another comment thread. You’re a spook, right? That’s what it looks like.

  6. Got a magic wand and a money tree? How quickly people forget what this government inherited from National. Never said it was going to be a quick easy fix, always said the overhaul is going to years. Welfare changes are operational, so any changes will occur at budget time. The 2019 budget had already been set, so its future budgets to look out for. The government are working on it so dont give up just yet unless you prefer the alternative that sitting in opposition.

    • “How quickly people forget what this government inherited from National. ”

      Yes. Totally agree. It was horrific, and they HAVE done much to stem the damage.

      “Welfare changes are operational”

      Nevertheless, this needs to be addressed now, right from the outset of 2020. People are desperate. They simply cannot survive. This cannot be a “Let them eat cake in the meantime” moment. If they cannot make certain essential changes very soon, a quiet revolution may be called for.

      • Some changes have already happened, people do have more in their pocket but so much more does need to be done. This government and PM Jacinda Ardern do acknowledge that.

        • So increases Accommodation Supplements led to cuts in Temporary Additonal Support or Special Benefit for a fair few, leaving them no better off, being the most in need.

          So called cheap doctor’s visits at $18 per visit will mean lower costs to declare for those most in need, who get Disability Allowance. That will reduce their Disability Allowance and leaves them NO better off after all.

          Higher thresholds for earning a bit extra while on a benefit only apply to the main or core benefit, supplements will still be affected and cut, so no gain there for most.

          It is the same as per usual, much talk, propaganda, and giving with one hand, and taking with the other.

          Few have more in their pockets, and higher rents and living costs take away what was increased.

        • Why don’t you wait nine years like you and your mates accuse National of squandering. Good luck. The Coalition has already spent the money that National had made and With not much to show for it. The Coalition has yet to face a financial crisis of any sort. Something it gives Nationals time in office no credit for managing. Many here believe the social transformation can happen regardless of how much money is in the kitty. You’ve had your three years of credit and what have we got. Nothing so useless as a labour coalition with increasing debt. You may win the next election but in my view it will be down hill from there.

    • What about the government’s promises?

      Kiwibuild?
      Housing all our homeless?
      Capital Gains Tax?
      Reducing Child Poverty?
      Transformational Change?
      Cleaning our Rivers?
      Stopping overseas investment into exploiting our water resources?

      I could put more on the list, simply cannot bother.

      We were served ‘great’ change, we got small change and excuses, too much BS, sorry.

      • Labour didnt campaign on a CGT, they campaigned on setting up a tax working group, they did that. The group recommended it but Labour couldn’t get consensus, their partner NZ First wouldn’t agree to it. Kiwibuild is ramping up just like the minister said it would. Have built thousands of state homes, with thousands more under construction.. The recent report covered the National government not this government, there’s a time lag, besides child poverty, housing crisis will not be solved in just 24 months. Transformational means making any changes stick and out last future National governments. Cleaning rivers is happening and laws need to be changes to limit foreign companies exploiting our water resources.

        • “Kiwibuild is ramping up just like the minister said it would. Have built thousands of state homes, with thousands more under construction.”

          Nonsense, KiwiBuild was NEVER about state homes. The Kainga Ora and Housing NZ buildings are only on a fraction of the land the government owns, and include mostly tiny units in large new blocks of units or apartments, the rest of the land is sold to private developers and some is used by the government to build KiwiBuild homes on.

          That is nothing short of ASSET SALES, so do not mislead the readers.

  7. “They can’t afford to live.” On TV1 news tonight, just now, – the bloke at the Wellington City Mission handing out food parcels to thousands.

  8. I agree that its impossible to criticize Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians because that is ‘anti-Semitic’. Its also no allowed to criticize the level of immigration (for the very good reason that we need to fix the housing crisis first. And apparently one cant oppose fluoridation of our water supply (because I should be allowed to say what I consume and I cant see why using fluoridated toothpaste should nt satisfy those who choose to opt in.) How can we solve any of the worlds problems if we cant speak without censure?

  9. Jacinda seems to have a part of herself missing, to say and not do. Since it’s justified by their focus groups’ downers on beneficiaries then there’s one last chance for them. If they’re re-elected by playing this regressive politics they need to launch a revolution for the poor in their first year. I’m not inclined to that sort of airy faith. Lucky girl!

    • “they need to launch a revolution for the poor ”

      Yes. They do. And that needs to begin now in this coming year, not after some future election.

      • Begin now and sprint like hell because after the end of the year they won’t be in. The revolution for the not poor will see to that.

        • The poor is a killer of electoral hopes in the country … well, our country. Which would be FINE in America. The poor and thus Maori are central to us. Mortgage paying can’t be made into ideals. 1984 ,by attacking the lower percentile attacked Maori. Roger Douglas thinks of himself as human, this is the only way to bring him to a confession . It was an attack on Maori. Visiting the poor suburbs.

  10. Susan, It is your turn to roar and thump the table.

    Remember that interview on TVNZ’s Sunday program earlier this year, where you shared a small round table with a disinterred Roger Douglas? I wondered why you were so quiet. Now, it really is time for you to bring your experience and knowledge to the table, to speak truth to power. To shout it where necessary.

    They must be reminded of their promise to:
    “overhaul the welfare system,
    ensure access to entitlements,
    remove excessive sanctions
    and review Working for Families so that everyone has a standard of living and income that enables them to live in dignity and participate in their communities,
    and lifts children and their families out of poverty”

  11. “There is no shred of an indication that core benefits will increase; not now, not in the medium term, and not in the longer term either. ”

    Something is very, very wrong there. The more so as there is no mention of all this elsewhere in the press. Lots of news about the good people giving up their Christmas Day to help feed others, and some acknowledgement of the numbers (thousands) in need of food parcels, – then it’s dropped. No further mention that the problem is ongoing. It’s not news any more. It’s just the norm. This is so wrong.

  12. National will be back in charge of housing by Christmas 2020!
    It’s becoming increasingly difficult to see any scenario under which the Coalition Government could secure a second term. All it would take to see a change of Government would be National achieving more than 47 per cent of the popular vote (and picking up the rest through support from ACT as well as getting its share of the reallocated ‘wasted vote’), a new centre-right party making it into parliament, or either of the Greens not making it back. Only one of these needs to take place.

    For these reasons, we’ll see a change of government this time next year – leading to another big shake up in the country’s housing policy (and everything else).

    – Ashley Church commentator for OneRoof.co.nz. Email him at ashley@nzemail.com

    • One thing is absolutely certain, whether Labour wins or National wins, with or without a support party, the house prices and apartment prices will remain high and un-affordable for MOST ordinary NZers, as both kinds of governments are shit scared to take on the middle class small landlord operators, who invested their life savings into one or two extra homes, to rent out, so they can enjoy a kind of comfortable middle class retirement, which more and more less fortunate NZers, especially Maori and Pasifika, will NEVER be able to enjoy.

      The pld and new gentry hold a significant share of the wealth in this country, hence this government did not introduce a CGT, did only do a few tweaks to policies governing the residential housing sectors, and has done all to ensure that property owners are not getting scared to invest more and concentrate more homes within fewer hands.

      Kiwi Build is a fiasco, social housing building is coming with creating new, condensed ghettos, while former state owned land is sold to developers and new first home buyers on the open market, to use and build privately owned homes on.

      When they talk about ‘houses’, they mostly mean UNITS and APARTMENTS in new blocks, that are three to four levels high, and that house the poor who are told, you better take what we offer you, or else you are back at the end of the queue.

      Both governments do the same, just having a slightly different approach of getting there, Nats letting more done by ‘the market’ and NGO operators, Labour having a bit more done by Kainga Ora and small social housing providers.

      Immigration will continue, driving house prices up further, as nobody who has invested in the status quo will want residential property prices to drop and become more affordable, as it will mean a drop in equity and investment values, that would force adjustment on the property owning middle class, who would then feel the pain.

      The truly poor and renting lot, they are left out in the cold, having to pay higher rents, and having to compete for the few homes that are available, feeling endless pressure, getting nowhere near their own home, ever.

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