The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Ammendment Bill

Summary of key points

  • Caritas opposes the analysis and assumptions which have resulted in the measures in this Bill. 
  • The proposals in this legislation continue to focus on the behaviour of individuals who receive benefits, rather than the economic and structural reasons behind the growth in unemployment following the global financial crisis.
  • The legislation is based on a perspective of people seen primarily as economic units, rather than people seen holistically with a range of roles and responsibilities within families, communities and society.
  • Stakeholder consultation has been inadequate.  Caritas has contributed considerable time and resources in recent years to analysing and commenting on welfare change proposals.  We do not find our voice or the voices of people who receive benefits reflected in the papers that policy decision makers and advisors have prepared to aid your legislative decision making. 
  • We will not devote time and resources to another comprehensive assessment of this widesweeping legislation, but will restrict our comment to four sections:
    • The merging and renaming of benefit categories adds complexity to, rather than simplifying, the main benefit types, while failing to address the complexity of second and third tier assistance.
    • We are deeply concerned about using benefit receipt to impose ‘social obligations’ on people receiving benefits which are not required on wider society, such as compulsory early childhood education from the age of 3.
    • We continue to be deeply concerned at the contraceptive mentality implicit in the discouragement of ‘subsequent’ children born in beneficiary families.
    • The potentially severe impact of cutting incomes requires that there are processes in place to speedily review decisions about the application of sanctions.
  • The flawed assumption that benefit dependency is the cause rather than the result of poverty was the basis of the Welfare Working Group terms of reference and all subsequent work on welfare reform.  This assumption has inevitably led to policy choices which focus on individual behaviour rather than the structural economic reasons for New Zealand’s current levels of unemployment and benefit receipt.
  • Even if administered fairly and compassionately they will only move a small proportion of people out of poverty.  Many others will continue to live in situations of deprivation.
  •   Read our written and oral submissions on the Bill here:

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Tutu ana te puehu - Stirring up the dust