Back in July the National government was taking heavy fire while trying to pass the GCSB bill. We all know that’s a cue for Paula Bennett to jump up and announce that she’s going to ‘get tough’ on someone, and this time around it was child abusers and suspected child abusers, with a raft of policies, from the pedestrian to the outright crazy, none of which the Minister had bothered to calculate costs for. We may or may not hear about any of them ever again.
(The previous tough crackdown that outraged everyone was back in February when National announced tough new plans to change the law to allow collective punishment for the partners of benefit fraudsters, announced in the midst of the Novopay fiasco and the first wave of Christchurch school closure announcements. Distraction accomplished, National then stuck the bill on their order paper and forgot about it for six months.)
So I thought it’d be interesting to go back and see what happened to one of National’s earlier controversial flagship reform policies: Long Term Contraceptives for Beneficiaries. This policy was introduced in May of 2012, to huge fanfare, front page leads and massive controversy (released during an absolutely terrible month for National, in which they announced a plan to increase class sizes in the budget and had to backtrack on it, and John Banks was revealed to have taken money from Kim Dotcom and lied about it to the public).
Paula Bennett did loads of media advocating for her policy. People accused her of practicing eugenics. Things died down a bit when commentators pointed out that Pharmac already paid for contraception and MSD already provided financial assistance for doctors visits, and that the one million dollars budgeted wasn’t going to go very far among the ~250,000 female beneficiaries and their daughters that it was targeted at.
So how’d it work out? I OIAd the Ministry of Social Development, and they replied:
As at 30 June 2013 a total of 127 clients received 148 grants for LARG made since the
assistance began in Jury 2012. Some clients received more ’than one grant, as grants
can be made available for LARG-pharmacy related costs, LARG-transport costs and
LARG~medical related costs,
That works out at just under $8000 per client to access a service that there was already government funding for. Which seems like a lot. You might even say it seems like enough to pay for a year of retraining/university study for those women, a scheme that Bennett famously benefited from and then cut almost as soon as she was in government.