My initial impression of National’s welfare reform policy is that it looks more like a routine department-level re-branding than an election policy from an incumbent government. The name of the DPB changes to the ‘Sole Parent Support’ benefit. The Invalids Benefit is now a ‘Supported Living Payment.’ Sickness beneficiaries go on the unemployment benefit, which is now the ‘Jobseeker Benefit’, but sickness beneficiaries still get exempted from job seeking while ill.
I like the financial incentives to encourage people back into work – but if you’re placing an expectation on solo parents to get back into the workforce, you really need to have a concrete child-care policy in place and National doesn’t – according to Bennett’s FactSheet they’re still working on it.
Some of the entries in the ‘Fact Sheet’ are bleakly funny due to the absence of any actual facts:
What medical evidence have you based the policy of putting work obligations on
sickness beneficiaries on?
Society’s expectations about work have changed. Not only can many sick and disabled
people contribute through employment, there is evidence that points to improvements in
health and wellbeing through taking up appropriate work.
It’ll be interested to see how many sickness beneficiaries transition to the
Invalids Supported Living benefit.
Update: Rob Salmond at Pundit points out a huge inconsistency in National’s new benefits package:
Consider these two families:
Mary and Bob have been married for 16 years. Bob is the breadwinner, Mary stays at home. Mary becomes pregnant, and at the same time the marriage breaks down. Mary has few skills and has a tough time getting a job in this economic environment. She is initially on the unemployment benefit, but transfers to the DPB when her first child is born.
Jane and Jim have been married for 16 years, and have a 14 year old child. Jim is the breadwinner, Jane stays at home. Jane becomes pregnant again, and at the same time the marriage breaks down. Jane has few skills and has a tough time getting a job in this economic environment. She goes on the DPB, and remains on it when her second child is born.
Because of the new incentives scheme, Mary is eligible to receive the DPB without a work requirement for five years, while Jane is expected to find work after one year – even though their situations are basically identical.