It helps when you need a place to know where to go and why. Therefore, it is important to establish the basic ‘Purposes and Principles’ of the Social Security Act as soon as possible.. The present ones have led us a long way in the wrong direction. As the Irish might say, if you want to get to a better place, it’s best not to start from here.
The Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG report) Whakamana Tāngata: Restoring Dignity to Social Security in New Zealand put forward this point and strongly advocated that before the reform we need to agree on new ‘purposes and principles’ for the welfare state. It has taken the government over four years to start facing this problem, and the signs so far are not promising. Despite WEAG’s detailed and careful work after broad consultation, it has apparently been necessary. to make a blank report “The Foundation for Change Amending New Zealand’s Social Security Act 2018: the next phase in New Zealand’s Welfare Overhaul Work Program”. With many great color images of a happy smiling, diverse but healthy NZ family, the spin machine is well oiled. The fabric is less impressive.
The report is not yet publicly available, but is the basis for a limited consultation process before it is considered by the government. The proposed ‘Purposes and Principles’ are a manipulation of the discredited present, nothing like the substantial reunion that WEAG requires or argued by the CPAG.
We should remember that Labor itself was responsible for the current dog’s breakfast in the ‘Purpose and Principles’ section of the current law. Labor introduced the change in 2007, emphasizing the primacy of paid work and making bizarre claims, for example, that “work in paid employment gives people the best opportunity to achieve social and economic well-being.” Social security should be there only after people had looked at their own resources. Its purpose was to (reluctantly) alleviate adversity, not to provide any kind of affiliation and participation results and security. Paid work by 9 times.
The national opposition in 2007 could not believe its luck. In the house, Anne Tolley said ecstatically as she rubbed her hands in joy:
“National supports this bill that will be selected. Why on earth should we not? We had been arguing for this for seven years, we want to tighten up the provisions of this bill. It’s basically just a wet dishcloth of a bill designed to make the government look like it’s doing something, but it’s actually not doing very much at. all” Hansard 2007
Labor law changes, paved the way for National (2008-2017) to further undermine the welfare state by emphasizing the priority of paid work and downplaying social responsibility and unpaid care activity. Being ill or disabled was no longer a reason not to be ‘paid’. Beneficiaries were subject to new planning and activity requirements, which meant that if they did not start planning paid work, they could have their benefit cut.
A further unraveling of the welfare state was encouraged by the 2007 target. ““to provide, under certain circumstances, the provision of financial support to people to help alleviate distress. “This led to an ever-tightening targeting of welfare assistance with severe sanctions for non-compliance. Poverty was used as a weapon to get the desired behavior and an ugly culture developed in WINZ. their powers to determine a relationship; its nature, its starting point and whether to prosecute. Sanctions were imposed for violations of the rulebook along with an appeal process stacked in MSD’s favor and without the oversight of an external body.
Another unpleasant feature of the changes in 2007 that National took advantage of was to expect people to look at their own resources before asking the state for anything. “…that they, where relevant, must use the resources at their disposal before seeking financial support under this Act ”.
The culture held that if the recipient had borrowed money because they could not survive on a benefit, such loans could be treated as income that reduced the right to the same benefit. CPAG was involved in a case (F) where a family loan resulted in a review of a single parent’s five-year expenses and the establishment of a debt of overpaid benefit of $ 127,000. A High Court decision was needed to get this overturned, but there was no review of the practice and implications for others in the same way, but without access to pro bono legal resources to sustain an 8-year battle with MSD.
So it is with some surprise that recent efforts to rewrite ‘Purpose and Principles’ preserve “where relevant [beneficiaries] should use the resources at their disposal before seeking financial support under this Act ”.
The precedence of wage labor is somewhat moderated to “employment, where relevant, provides the best opportunity for people to achieve well-being”. There is no visionary statement that the purpose of social security is not only to alleviate actual poverty when it arises but to prevent it and activate participation and affiliation in society. Rather, the best that can be exemplified in the 2022 report is “Social Security Contributes to the Welfare of Society by Providing Support to Reduce Poverty and Distress.”
It is a shame that WEAG’s work is invisible, and even more time is expected from former WEAG members and NGOs like CPAG to engage in so-called consultation on what looks like a make-work exercise.