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Thread: Benefit Reforms

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    Default Benefit Reforms

    Govt unveils benefit reforms
    Oct 26, 2006

    The government has unveiled a reform of New Zealand's benefit system with changes to be introduced over the next 12 months.But it admits its ultimate goal of a single core benefit is now on the backburner.

    Treasury papers reveal a universal benefit might not be in place until 2010 - a decade after it was first proposed.

    National's social welfare spokeswoman Judith Collins says Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope made it clear the government's pledge to deliver a universal benefit has hit the rocks."This is clearly a delay tactic. It's an admission of defeat and I think the minster's thrown up his arms and said surrender," says Collins.

    She says an awful lot of tax-payer money has been spent developing the single core benefit plan, but she doubts it is ever going to happen. But the minister denies he is giving up, just prioritising his efforts to get the greatest gains, and that means getting more people into work.

    Unemployment is at a 20 year low and the government is looking to fill labour shortages by getting more people off benefits.

    A key target group is people aged over 60. If they are on an unemployment benefit they will now be forced to undergo a test determining whether they are fit to take on a job

    The plan cuts in next year and could affect more than 6,000 beneficiaries. Others on welfare will get greater assistance to enter the work force. Special programmes will target people on the youth benefit, the dpb and sickness and invalids benefit and a seperate initiative aims to get more Maori off the dole

    The extra measures will include a job search service, skills courses, and more targeted case management. Reforms will also see streamlining of entitlements to benefits.

    To be entitled, a person will have to have had New Zealand residency for at least two years, although refugees will be exempt from this. Stand down periods are also to be changed across the board.

    Currently the stand down period between a job ending and someone getting a benefit ranges between two and eight weeks. Now it will be standardised at two weeks for all benefits.

    "This is a most significant change, it?s certainly the biggest change to the benefit system in 50 years," says Benson-Pope.
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    Default Re: Benefit Reforms

    Work-testing may put elderly into menial jobs
    28 October 2006
    By EMILY WATT

    Plans to work-test beneficiaries aged over 60 could force elderly people into menial jobs such as pumping petrol and washing dishes, critics say.

    The Government announced a new Working New Zealand package this week, with plans to work-test unemployed benefit recipients aged over 60, who are currently exempt.

    Unite Union's Matt McCarten called the plan insulting, and said most of the available jobs were part-time and unpleasant ? such as washing dishes, cleaning, and pumping petrol, and were unsuitable for older workers. "It's insulting. It's a complete lack of respect and dignity, that people who have worked their whole lives either in paid work, or raising a family, are then told they have to work in McDonald's."

    Mr McCarten said no one wanted to be unemployed, and targeting the over-60s was hounding the wrong group. "All the unemployed I talk to do want a job, but all they're going to is one unskilled job to another. These jobs which are available are not really jobs."

    The work-test plan would be very stressful for older clients. "It's about punishment, he said. People who aren't employed feel like shit a lot of the time."

    Geoff Healey, a 57-year-old beneficiary from Auckland, said older people struggled to find work and work testing would only add more stress. "I can see how for some people, this could really raise their levels of anxiety."

    Mr Healey has been on a sickness benefit for the past 18 months after a heart operation, so will not have to undergo work tests, but he said older friends and colleagues were worried. Many of the jobs required people to stand all day, or other manual work, and they were not able to do it.

    "It's a bit like some harassment. If you're over 60, nobody wants to employ you anyway, whether you're fit and well or not."

    Wellington People's Centre benefit rights services coordinator Kay Brereton welcomed the opportunity for older people to access job-seeking courses. "But what concerns me is the stick that comes with the carrot ? the work testing and the sanctions that those people are going to be subject to." Most older people were capable of work, and wanted to work, but they would suffer from the sanctions and pressure, she said.

    Social Development and Employment Minister David Benson-Pope says "It's not a stick approach. We don't do punitive too much. I think you get better results by working with people."
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