From the Beehive: Adding to winter's woes

Last updated 07:27 30/07/2013

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OPINION: Why governments like to dump on their citizens in the winter is beyond me, writes Rino Tirikatene (Labour) in From the Beehive.

Like the weather isn't miserable enough already and higher than normal power bills are freaking everyone out, this National Government continues to bash the very poor and most vulnerable in society with a new wave of welfare reforms.

Several new reforms have come into play over the past week, and it seems to me most of these reforms are punitive by nature. Making parents liable for enrolling their kids into early childcare education for a required amount of hours just so parents are available to look for part-time work is crazy. There aren't enough jobs to go around as there is. Why add more people to the job market? That's just making it harder for everyone else.

Withholding the benefit to those with outstanding warrants will only penalise the immediate families of mothers and fathers on the run from the law. The law breaker deserves the punishment, but it will be the partner and children who feel the real social effects further down the road.

What about the drug testing regime for beneficiaries? What a waste of time. Last week you could get legally high on 'dairy dak' and there wasn't a damn thing Work and Income could do about it. The message Paula and Work and Income seem to be sending is: "You're spending money on illegal things and you must be punished."

I'm not here to condone pot smoking but Paula Bennett has got it so wrong, she, rather than her policy, has become the joke.

To her way of thinking every beneficiary is here to rip off the social welfare system. She's even found room to make sickness beneficiaries suffer the ignominy of competing against solo mothers and sickness beneficiaries for jobs that aren't there.

The final straw for welfare recipients came from Minister of Courts Chester Burrows, who managed to come up with 3000 names of people who have or are ripping off the welfare system. The figures are the result of cross sharing of information between IRD and Work and Income. I'll bet the majority of those will be admin errors.

It won't come as a surprise to you many of these beneficiaries are also tenants of Housing New Zealand, who are about to do a nationwide review of their tenants and their housing stock. This review will only add to the sense of victimisation those who receive welfare already feel.

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» Rino Tirikatene is the MP for Te Tai Tonga.

- The Southland Times

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